On the technology side, the core messages at the show were more power and longer battery life. Toshiba showcased a new display technology that, at 14 inches, looked a little out of date, but this display uses about one-third less power and should show up in more forward-looking sizes within a few quarters. Intel, meanwhile, once again promised that a new version of the Pentium M (Dothan) will be available in a few short months that will improve performance over the existing design. A few months after that the company will be increasing the front-side bus speed by a little more than 25 percent, to 533MHz, removing one of the existing system bottlenecks.This will come together in the second half of this year with a number of additional integrated features. Hardware-based encryption takes the load off the processor, and it both increases performance and improves the value proposition for actually using encryption. The platform moves to eight USB ports and gains four PCI Express (ExpressCard) ports (not all systems will implement all of these due to real estate limitations but we will see more on most designs and ExpressCard opens the door to very high bandwidth accessories like graphics cards for laptops for in-office multidisplays). They will be supporting a much stronger audio standard called "Intel High Definition Audio." By the way, ExpressCard technology will provide an interesting benefit for desktop computers as well because it should eliminate the need to open the case to upgrade a card. In other words, it can be implemented in a way that could easily make internal slots obsolete. Well cover this at length in a future column (as soon as I can run down pictures of these future systems). I estimate that the total benefit should provide the rare combination of battery savings in the 10 percent to 20 percent range and performance increases, with some systems exceeding a 20 percent increase due to the elimination of the bottlenecks. This is a powerful improvement, assuming everything arrives on time, and should make the fourth quarter a good time to look at buying that next laptop computer. Rob Enderle is the principal analyst for the Enderle Group, a company specializing in emerging personal technology.
The company also confirmed that it is shipping the new Centrino bundle, which supports 802.11g (g is backward-compatible to 802.11b) and will be shipping an 802.11g/a part by the end of the year. The new "g" part uses 19 percent less power when actively transmitting and receiving and saves a whopping 67 percent when active and idle.