Intel Labs Natural Born Killer Technologies

Opinion: Rob Enderle visits Intel's Lab to see what's cooking in the fab. And what he finds should give IBM and Apple reason to grab their torches and pitchforks.

Disclaimer: Intel and Microsoft are both clients. Every now and then, Intel pulls a bunch of journalists and analysts together and showcases what the company is working on in its labs.

The last time I went to one of these Intel showcased a joint project with Microsoft, called Chrome, that could have revolutionized the connected PC. Unfortunately, it died before it saw the light of day.

/zimages/3/28571.gifClick here to read John Pallattos report of the Intel event.

This year they showcased some interesting technologies that could transform the how we work, collaborate, play, keep track of our loved ones and entertain ourselves.

Here are the highlights:

Virtual Machine PowerPC Killer. This one was easy. Intel showed a FreeBSD-based OS that was running on one processor, and then with some changes to the kernel, moved it to an x86-based architecture—with no application or performance impact. This is architected at the hardware level, and the technology is actually in use by some small hosting companies.

What was new was near-seamless driver support for the technology. Evidently, they have been working on this for some time. Up until now, they could move applications, but the drivers were a problem.

Aside from the implications for Apple (with the means to move Mac OS X to an Intel-based platform), this technology would allow one machine to run Unix, Linux and Windows more easily, and without the typical overhead penalty from using a product like VMware.

Let me tell you, I felt that I could have gone home and still justified the trip after seeing this one demo.

iPod Killer. Well, this might not really be a "killer" product, however, it could conceivably work its way into a future Apple product. (Something many dont know is that Apple CEO Steve Jobs and Intel President Paul Otellini are actually friends). What the technology does is create a two-way link between a music device and a receiver, so you can operate the iPod from the receiver wirelessly.

For example, you would be able to operate and listen to your iPod with the radio controls in your car. If you have steering wheel buttons, they would work. If you had a display on the dash, it would show the songs and play lists. When you went home, you could have the same experience with your home stereo. There would be no need for cables (except that you might want to plug it into the power adapter) and the device would function as if it was actually a real audio system component.

Ultra-Low-Power Wireless Personal Data Repeater. This device blends Bluetooth and Wi-Fi into an always-on personal repeater. Bluetooth uses a small fraction of the power that Wi-Fi needs, and it moves a fraction of the data. The current problem with Wi-Fi is it has to be on and fully powered, even if you arent sending something, because it cant anticipate when someone is going to send something to you.

By combining the devices, the Wi-Fi component can power down when it isnt sending, and the Bluetooth component can be used to identify an incoming event so it can power up. In addition, if that incoming event is a small mail file or instant message, which Bluetooth can deal with, the Wi-Fi side can stay powered down—potentially increasing battery life significantly.

The demonstrated implementation was interesting. The wireless repeater, which was about the size of a pack of cigarettes, connected to the secondary device—a handheld computer, a smart VOIP phone, laptop computer or a display watch. The secondary device would use very little power because all it was doing was talking to the repeater, which can be in your pocket, purse or on your belt.

The technology would let an Internet watch or a very small PDA support streaming video; or enable a small handheld VOIP phone to do video conferencing at decent frame rates. Of course, we may want to borrow Batmans utility belt to carry the repeater, but the rest could be really cool.

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