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With Santa Rosa, Intel's Laptops Get Serious About Wireless

Are you a desktop PC person, into having the highest performance processor, graphics card, and memory you can cram into a mini-tower? Then you're so yesterday, because Intel sees consumer laptops as the next big thing (okay, they already are). The chip giant intends to use its new Santa Rosa platform and next year's Montevina, to drive the market from its current density of less than "half a notebook per household" to one notebook per person.
Are you a desktop PC person, into having the highest performance processor, graphics card, and memory you can cram into a mini-tower? Then you're so yesterday, because Intel sees consumer laptops as the next big thing (okay, they already are). The chip giant intends to use its new Santa Rosa platform and next year's Montevina, to drive the market from its current density of less than "half a notebook per household" to one notebook per person.On first glance, Santa Rosa doesn't seem all the exciting; just another refresh of the standard Centrino-plus-wireless combo you find in any garden-variety notebook. Sure, it's got a faster Core 2 Duo, but what's really interesting is the integrated graphics capability, which positions Santa Rosa laptops to run Windows Vista. Since Vista is a bigger draw for consumers than a faster chip, that's a big deal.

Note that I'm not talking about enterprise users, for whom Vista's glitzy Aero interface and the need for hardware to support it raise serious issues (like, why would I want to pay for this stuff?). I'm talking about consumers. If you don't believe me, try this test: Have any family member play with a Vista machine, and see if they don't come away wanting the thing.

But back to Santa Rosa. Once you set aside the integrated graphics, and the new Turbo Memory feature --which boosts hard drive performance with what's essentially a flash-based cache-what you're left with is a heavy duty wireless box. Santa Rosa has the supports the faster 802.11n wireless technology. 802.11n, also sometimes called just "n," can offer a throughput of up to 74 Mbits/sec, compared with 19 Mbits/sec for its predecessor 802.11g. I haven't referred to 802.11n as a standard, because it's not quite a standard yet; it's a draft standard. The very long road to ratification is a story I won't get into here, but let's just say that Intel's placing 802.11n into a laptop platform means the technology has finally arrived.

Which brings me back to the headline with which I opened this post. Why did I say, "With Santa Rosa, Intel's Laptops Get Serious About Wireless," and why do I mean that as more than just a cliche (or just "whoring after hits," as some commenters on my blog suggested yesterday)?

It's because Intel's next laptop platform after Santa Rosa, which is called Montevina and is due in 2008, will kick wireless up an additional notch. Montevina will combine WiFi and WiMAX in the same platform. Sure, one way to look at this is that Intel is attempting to stuff WiMAX -a technology which hasn't been all that popular-onto consumers. On the other hand, serious users should be glad about this. WiMAX offers the high data rate of 802.11n, but supports it over longer distances. Indeed, it's likely to be the technology which makes wireless connectivity completely ubiquitous and finally untethers the mobile work force from its docking stations.

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Mary E. Shacklett, President of Transworld Data
James M. Connolly, Contributing Editor and Writer