Intel Mobile Device Road Map Takes Shape

The company is bringing its second-generation Classmate designs to market and preparing its Nehalem chips for laptops.

Intel is delving deeper into notebooks this week at the 2008 Developer Forum in Shanghai, China, and company executives are talking about several new developments for both its consumer and business product lines.

One of the more significant updates coming out if this week's show is Intel's second-generation Classmate PC, which the company plans to introduce to U.S. and Western European markets later this year.

Intel has added several new features into this version of the Classmate that will make it more appealing to users in these two mature markets, while also allowing the notebook to make it onto retail shelves, said Jeff Galinovsky, manager of emerging markets platform for Intel.

The new features include a 30GB of hard disk drive capacity or the choice of a 4GB flash-based SSD (solid state drive). The laptop also has more RAM-512MB compared to the previous 256MB-than the older models and it will support Microsoft Windows, as well as Metasys and Ubuntu Linux operating systems. The Classmate also now offers a nine-inch display compared to the older seven-inch display model.

The new model will also offer 802.11b/g Wi-Fi, as well as mesh network capabilities.

The Atom Family

On the processor side, Intel will continue offering the Celeron M ultra-low volt processor-900MHz clock speed-before it switches to the new class of chips codenamed Diamondville later this year. This new processor will be part of Intel's Atom family of processor that company created for a new class of low-cost PCs Intel called "netbooks." These laptops are also considered a different category from the mobile Internet devices that Intel is talking about at this week's IDC.

Since the Classmate is geared more toward the education and emerging markets, it is considered a subcategory of these new netbooks, said Galinovsky. The starting price for the Classmate is $185. The new class of netbooks will start between $250 and $300.

Other vendors, such as Asustek with its EEE PC, are also entering the low-cost notebook market.

"Several companies, including Asus and OLPC, have realized that the same system that was designed for the developing world has appeal in the developed world in price sensitive segments, such as value demographics and public education, or as [a] second, third or fourth PC in a household," said Roger Kay, an analyst with Endpoint Technologies Associates.

"Businesses are a less likely target for these types of notebooks, but their not entirely beyond reach," Kay added.

Classmate Beyond Charity

While the Classmate is a rival to the OLPC (One Laptop Per Child) offering, and Intel remains at odds with the leadership of the OLPC, the company has clear ambitions for the laptop beyond supplying notebooks to emerging markets.

Since the Classmate is more of a design than an actual product-ECS is the major original design manufacturer of the notebooks at this point-it provides both a way to supply low-cost PCs and give local manufactures, as well as Intel, a way to make a profit.

Beyond its efforts with low-cost notebooks, Intel executives announced at this week's IDF that the company's Centrino 2 platform-formally codenamed "Montevina"-will enter the market in June. The new platform uses 45-nanometer processors and includes a new technology called "Eco Peak," which will integrated both WiMax and Wi-Fi technology into the silicon.

Intel will offer dual-core chips as part of the Centrino 2 platform before moving into quad-core processors for laptops later in 2008.

Intel also announced a new notebook platform called "Calpella," which will debut in 2009. This mobile platform will include the company's line of chips called Nehalem, which will use new microarchitecture.