Intel claims to have played a pivotal role in the surge of sales in mobile computers with the launch of Centrino almost three years ago and, at the recent fall Intel Developers Forum (IDF) in San Francisco, the chip giant emphasised that it is more than ready for the next stage in the evolution of this technology. Mark Davison reports. 

In his keynote address at this year’s fall IDF, Intel president and CEO, Paul Otellini, was keen to stress that the company was well-prepared for the continued boom in mobile technology that the world was experiencing and that it’s next generation mobile platform – Santa Rosa – was well on track to ship in 2007.
“We’ve talked a lot about how things like energy efficiency have changed things [in the inudstry], but the biggest changes have got to have been in the mobile space,” Otellini says. “We’ve seen huge change since the ‘luggable’ of the 1980s to today, and the result is that notebook growth has accelerated phenomenally.
“Today, there are more notebooks sold in Japan than desktops and in the US more and more consumers are turning to notebooks,” he says. “This is up from the less than 20% market share that notebooks experienced pre-Centrino. There was an inflection point in 2003 when we introduced the first Centrino which ushered in an era of sleeker, more connectable notebooks.
“Our second generation offered better wireless features and longer battery life and, earlier this year we introduced dual core performance into notebooks with Core Duo and Core 2 Duo.
“Next year, we will introduce our next generation [mobile technology] – Santa Rosa – which will, again, offer a number of significant improvements,” Otellini continues. “Faster wireless, NAND flash memory on the motherboard, new management and security features.
“Santa Rosa will offer significantly improved notebook performance and battery life, doubling the speed of a number of current functions.”
Otellini says the next inflection point in the industry will be “broadband to go”.
“To make this happen, you need pervasive broadband and computers that you can literally carry in your hand,” Otellini says.
In this regard, Intel is making significant progress with its WiMax effort, he says, bolstered by the recent news that Sprint and Clearwire would deploy the technology.
The company is also working on a new category of PCs known as ultra-mobile PCs, which Otellini says could result in devices with 10 times lower power consumption than today’s laptops by 2008.
“Last year we spoke about ultra-small, mobile devices,” he says. “We’re accelerating these plans in 2006 as a business plan.”
Dadi Perlmutter, senior vice-president and GM of Intel’s mobility group, went into more detail with a demonstration of Santa Rosa.
“In the past, users have sacrificed one or more capabilities in order to have a mobile PC,” Perlmutter says. “But in the last few years, Intel has taken mobile computing to new levels of performance, connectivity and battery life, so that mobility offers little or no compromises compared to desktop computing.
“We continue to strengthen and broaden the mobile experience, and our future products will expand the capabilities of people worldwide.”
Perlmutter says Santa Rosa, scheduled for introduction in the first half of next year, will improve upon the Intel Core 2 Duo processor by offering new power saving capabilities in the CPU and a faster front-side bus from 667Mhz up to 800Mhz, enabling greater energy-efficient performance.
New capabilities, such as longer residency in Enhanced Deeper Sleep low-power state and Dynamic Front Side Bus Switching, will help manage average power while delivering more performance.
The platform will also feature a new WiFi solution that will be compliant with the emerging 802.11n specification.
To ensure optimal user experience with this solution before the 802.11n specification is officially approved, Intel has created an 802.11n interoperability program, working with leading access point vendors – including Buffalo, D-Link, Linksys and Netgear – to perform interoperability, performance, range and stability testing.
“Many 802.11n products currently on the market don’t interoperate optimally with WiFi networks,” says Perlmutter. “We believe our 802.11n solution will offer the best balance of throughput and power efficiency on the market. This interoperability program is designed to go beyond the already robust program announced by the WiFi Alliance.”
Perlmutter also announced that Intel, in collaboration with Nokia, will deliver integrated wireless broadband connectivity products utilising 3G technology for upcoming Intel Centrino Duo mobile technology platforms.
This will further expand connectivity options for laptop users with the broad availability of 3G networks.
Perlmutter says Santa Rosa will add many of the Intel vPro technology capabilities available today on business desktop PCs. “Wireless Intel Active Management Technology1 will help to improve a company’s information technology efficiency, asset management, system security and availability, ultimately lowering total cost of ownership,” he says. “The new systems will also include Intel’s innovative flash memory-based accelerator, enabling systems to resume productivity from hibernation and run multiple applications up to two times faster, save 0.4 watts of power in the hard drive, and boot faster.”
In addition, Intel will revamp its chipset with a new integrated graphics core, offering new levels of richness, realism, life-like effects and high-definition playback.
Expanding on ultra-mobile devices, Perlmutter says that the next Ultra Mobile PC platform will be available during the first half of next year.
“The CPU for this platform will consume approximately half the power of today’s CPUs with approximately one-fourth the package size,” he says. “This will enable smaller, cooler form factors with longer battery life and new usage models.”