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At IDF: Intel offers peek at future mobile tech

[FEBRUARY 25, 2003/ADT'S PROGRAMMERS REPORT] -At last week's Intel Developer Forum in San Jose, Calif., Intel Corp. gave developers an advanced look at its forthcoming ''Centrino'' mobile processor, which looks to be an impressive replacement for the Pentium 4 Processor-M. Formerly code-named ''Banias'' and scheduled for launch on March 12, the processor has been designed from the ground up for mobile computing, according to Intel general manager and mobile technology maven Anand Chandrasekher.

During his conference keynote, Chandrasekher demonstrated the Centrino processor, comparing it to the Mobile Pentium 4-M, as well as the older Pentium III. Using three otherwise identically configured notebooks, Chandrasekher ran a spreadsheet program, Abode Systems' Photoshop and a DVD rendering application on each machine. The new processor appeared to use less power and to complete its tasks faster than either of the older processors did.

Chandrasekher also demo'd Centrino in Intel's ''Newport'' concept platform, which Intel chief Craig Barrett showcased on the opening day of the conference. The 4.5-pound Newport notebook device includes a detachable 2.4-pound tablet and a mobile phone-like LCD screen. The smaller ''quick-view'' screen would allow ''closed-lid computing'' -- simple tasks, such as e-mail, instant messaging and calendar functions, could literally be performed without opening the laptop's lid. Both components carried their own batteries, which extended battery life to about six hours, Barrett said. He described Newport as a ''next-generation mobile solution for knowledge workers.''

With built-in wireless support, Newport is capable of real-time messaging and routing phone calls from the PC to a cell phone, Chandrasekher said. Centrino's low-power capability allows the Newport keyboard to operate for six hours, or 2.5 hours when detached in tablet mode, he added.

Although demand for mobile processors has outstripped demand for desktop processors in recent years, Intel isn't ignoring stationary PCs. The Santa Clara, Calif.-based chipmaker also announced that it would be releasing its 'Prescott' processor later this year. Based on the same basic NetBurst architecture as the Pentium 4, Prescott will come with numerous improvements, according to Louis Burns, VP of Intel's desktop platforms group. Among its new features, the processor will come with 1MB of cache -- twice the cache of current P-4s -- as well as 13 new instructions, an enhanced version of hyperthreading and an 800MHz bus.

Prescott's successor, code-named ''Tejas'' is due in 2004, and will appear first in a PC code-named 'Marble Falls,' a machine similar in design to a dual-monitor PC. Marble Falls will also feature 3GIO high-speed connection technology, Burns said.

Back on the mobile front, Centrino, as a power conserve, can be seen as a response to the competitive Crusoe ship from start-up Transmeta Corp. Running at speeds of up to 1.6GHz, Centrino will also deliver longer battery life than the older processors, Intel's Chandrasekher said. Centrino typically delivers 316 minutes of battery life, compared with 215 minutes on the Pentium III-M and 163 minutes on the P4-M, he said. Other than his demo, Chandrasekher offered no performance benchmarking details.

Centrino will also include wireless networking features, such as built-in support for 802.11a and b, Bluetooth and GPRS.

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For other Programmers Report articles, please go to http://www.adtmag.com/article.asp?id=6265

About the Author

John K. Waters is a freelance writer based in Silicon Valley. He can be reached at john@watersworks.com.

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