HP Not Ready to Pull Trigger on Centrino

Compaq Evo N620c instead sports Intel's Pentium-M processor.

Hewlett-Packard Co. on Wednesday launched a notebook computer for business customers that is notable in that it does not sport Intel Corp.s new Centrino chip set.

The Compaq Evo N620c instead sports Intels Pentium-M processor. Formerly known as Banias, the Pentium-M is designed to conserve power and battery life in notebooks. Three versions will be released, with speeds ranging from 900MHz to 1.6GHz. Intel already sells Pentium notebook processors that are primarily enhanced desktop chips that consume less power but hamper battery life.

The Centrino chip set, which Intel is launching on Wednesday, includes the Pentium-M along with an accompanying chip set and an 802.11b Wi-Fi wireless LAN module.

HP plans to include Centrino in a consumer notebook this summer, but is avoiding the chip set for its corporate products because the company is gun shy about the risk of obsolescence and incompatibility inherent in a fleet of notebooks with embedded wireless support, officials said. Time after time, when IT managers sat down with HP sales reps to figure out the total cost of ownership for supporting wireless LANs across the company, "that bright light in their eyes just shut down overnight," said Margaret Franco, product marketing director for HP business notebooks in Palo Alto, Calif.

"Our overall strategy is to embrace wireless, but not to force that position right away," Franco said. "Thats why were not going with a full Centrino right out of the gate."

The N620c will support wireless LAN connectivity via an optional Multiport module, officials said. Bluetooth is also an option.

The notebook weighs less than 5 pounds with a battery that lasts up to 6 hours, and about 5.25 pounds with an additional battery pack that extends the life up to 10 hours. The notebook is 1.2 inches thick, and it has a 14.1-inch screen.

It supports the HP Protect Tools Smart Card Security Manager and an optional PC Card Smart Card reader, which prevents unauthorized users from getting access to the systems data.

The notebook also includes a Gigabit LAN controller and a USB 2.0 port.

Pricing for the notebook ranges from $1,799 to $2,799, depending on the power of the processor and amount of memory in the notebook.

In May, HP plans to unveil a one-spindle notebook that includes integrated wireless LAN support via a mini-PCI card. Using components from Atheros Communications Inc., that notebook will be tri-mode, meaning it supports 802.11a, 802.11b and 802.11g, officials said. 802.11b offers connection speeds of up to 11 Mbps, while 802.11a and 802.11g boast speeds of up to 54 Mbps. 802.11g has yet to be ratified, but officials said that the notebook will be software upgradable if there are any changes to the draft standard between May and June, when final ratification of 802.11g is due.

Centrino supports only 802.11b.

HP plans to launch a Centrino notebook in June, which is a key buying season, officials said. It will be aimed primarily at consumers who want wireless LAN connectivity so that they can surf the Web in public "hot spots" such as coffee shops and airport lounges that offer WLAN services. Intel has forged partnerships with companies ranging from Borders Group Inc. to McDonalds Corp. to connect the Centrino brand to the idea of ubiquitous wireless LAN services.

"Its brand recognition, really," Franco said. "Thats why our focus is initially on consumers."

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