When Intel Corp. launched its last week, it was accompanied by enthusiastic OEMs, each eager to talk about the smaller, lighter notebooks under development. However, the new technology isnt getting the same reception from some potential users.
A handful of IT managers contacted by eWeek last week said they wanted to look before leaping into Centrino. For example, an IT administrator for a major financial services company said he was in the process of buying new notebooks but put that on hold to review Centrino. He plans to buy about 1,000 notebooks over the next six months.
“I want to see what Centrino brings,” said the administrator, who requested anonymity. “Longer battery life is very, very important. For salespeople on the road, they can bring their notebooks with them into meetings. You want the people who represent you to not have any technical glitches.”
The potential for lighter notebooks using Centrino and not needing to buy wireless cards was also attractive, he said. Another calculation the IT administrator is making is the savings his business could accrue from deploying a wireless network in lieu of a cabled environment to connect employees to the Internet. It costs his company about $100 for each Internet connection, the administrator said.
Centrino has the Pentium-M chip; the accompanying 855 chip-set family; and a Wi-Fi module, the PRO/Wireless 2100 Network Connection. The chip, which runs at speeds ranging from 900MHz to 1.6GHz, uses a new architecture that offers lower power consumption and longer battery life than Intels current top mobile chips, the Pentium III-M and Pentium 4-M.
Intel, of Santa Clara, Calif., is investing time and money in boosting the number of Wi-Fi hot spots around the world to increase wireless computing capabilities, company CEO Craig Barrett said at the launch here. Currently, there are 3,000 to 4,000 hot spots verified to work with Centrino-enabled devices, officials said. By the end of the year, Intel expects that to have grown into the tens of thousands.
“The exciting thing is, I think people are ready for this technology,” Barrett said. “People want to use their computers anywhere at any time in any configuration. … There is a groundswell of desire, there is a need and there is a coming together in the industry to provide this.”
However, even the OEMs that are eager to use Centrino to build sleeker notebooks with greater wireless computing capabilities said the wireless world is not yet a reality.
“The industry still has a long way to go to satisfy the end user,” said Patrick Lin, president of Acer America Corp., of San Jose, Calif. “If a salesperson [goes to a remote area], hot spots dont help. The dream is, you can get [wireless] access really anywhere. Centrino is a good step.”
Acer last week introduced a Centrino-powered notebook, the TravelMate 803LCi, and next month will start shipping a convertible Tablet PC—the TravelMate c110—that can easily be converted from a tablet to a notebook configuration.
IBM and Dell Computer Corp. both rolled out notebooks last week that offer the entire Centrino package and others that simply featured the Pentium-M chip.
However, not every OEM jumped onto the Centrino bandwagon. Hewlett-Packard Co. launched a notebook that features only the chip and is avoiding the chip set for its corporate products.
OEMs can turn to other vendors for mobile chips. Advanced Micro Devices Inc. last week announced 12 new mobile chips for full-size- and thin-notebook markets. Separately, Transmeta Corp. released more details on its upcoming Astro chip.
Additional reporting by Carmen Nobel.
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