Intels long-awaited new mobile platform is about to hit the street.
As CEO Paul Otellini promised at the companys spring meeting of financial analysts, Intel officially launched its fourth-generation Centrino platform May 9 at several shows both inside and outside the United States.
In addition to the official unveiling of the new platform, previously code-named Santa Rosa, several top-tier vendors wasted little time in rolling out notebooks that incorporate the new technology.
Some of the PC vendors now offering Intels new mobile platform include Hewlett-Packard, Lenovo, Gateway and Fujitsu. Dell is the only major OEM not offering a Centrino Pro notebook right away, but the company will offer the Latitude D630c, which will be based on the new platform, later this year.
During a presentation in New York, Don MacDonald, Intels vice president for marketing and sales, told the audience that as the world turns toward mobile devices for work, gaming and access to the Internet, his company needs to respond with its own technology.
"There is an increasing need out there for mobile devices as the world turns more mobile," MacDonald said, adding that Intel has already sold more than 150 million Centrino platforms worldwide since it first introduced the technology in 2003.
MacDonald also pointed to an IDC study that found by 2011, 50 percent of all worldwide PC shipments will be notebooks.
Intel, which is based in Santa Clara, Calif., is offering the new platform in two distinct versions. The first, Centrino Duo, is geared toward the consumer market, while the second, Centrino Pro, is the enterprise version of the mobile platform.
The major distinction between the two versions is that the Centrino Pro version will include Intels vPro technology — a series of manageability and security features built into the platform. Although Intel already offers vPro in its desktops, this is the first time the company is offering the same capabilities in a mobile platform.
The most critical part of vPro for IT managers is AMT (Active Management Technology), which provides a remote communication channel that is available to the IT staff. It also provides nonvolatile memory where third-party application data can be stored. All this provides for better power management and gives administrators the ability to monitor a fleet of PCs.
Roger Kay, an analyst with Endpoint Technology Associates, said that Intel including vPro and AMT capabilities for laptops is the most significant development for IT managers.
"The AMT stuff and its move to the mobile platform is what the larger enterprises are going to be interested in," Kay said. "What this is going to do is enable corporate IT mangers to circle the wagons and gain control over the clients."
Even if companies adopt desktops and notebooks with vPro technology, Kay said most IT managers will wait until about 20 or 25 percent of the fleet is equipped with the AMT capabilities before they start trying to manage the PCs through this new technology.
The new Centrino platform will include a number of Intels dual-core Core 2 Duo processors, which have gone by the code name "Merom." These 64-bit processors—the T7300, T7500 and T7700—will offer clock speeds ranging from 1.8GHz to 2.4GHz and have an 800MHz FSB (front side bus). Most of the chips will have 4MB of L2 cache, although one of the processors—the T7100—will only have 2MB of L2 cache.
Of the six new Core 2 Duo processors, four will have 35-watt TDP (thermal design power)—an Intel term that refers to how much heat a chip has to dissipate—while the company will also offer two other chips with a TDP of only 17 watts. These two low-watt processors—the Core 2 Duo L7300 and L7500—will have clock speeds of 1.4GHz and 1.6GHz, respectively.
Prices for the new processors range from $241 to $530 per 1,000 units.
The platform will also include Intels 965 Express chip set, which will include Intels integrated GMA X3100 graphics engine. The platform will also include support for draft 802.11n wireless technology as well as support for older 802.11 a/b/g standards.
The two other significant new additions to the Centrino platform include a feature called TurboMemory, which is a NAND-based flash memory, and a new capability called Dynamic Acceleration Technology.
The Dynamic Acceleration feature allows the CPU to switch processing loads from a busy core to an underutilized core when running single-threaded applications. The technology increases the clock speed on the busy core to improve performance but allows the chips overall thermal and power envelopes to stay the same.
Kay noted that many corporate IT buyers might hold off on trying the TurboMemory feature, which can be configured for either 512MB or 1GB of memory, since they can realize many of the same benefits from just adding more memory to the hard drive at a much lower cost. At Wednesdays show, Intel executives said users can benefit from this feature since it will allow certain applications to boot faster, while reducing power since the TurboMemory has no moving parts.
While Otellini announced on May 3 that Centrino Pro and Centrino Duo were on the way, several of the top-tier OEMs waited until May 9 to announce new notebooks that will use this latest mobile platform.