Intel Ready with Centrino 2 Laptop Platform

After a delay, the Intel Centrino 2 laptop platform will debut July 14 and will offer the latest Core 2 Duo notebook processors, enhanced graphics and wireless technology, with vendors such as Hewlett-Packard and Lenovo preparing new laptop models.

The Intel Centrino 2 laptop platform is ready for its prime time debut July 14.

After a delay of more than a month due to issues related to integrated graphics and wireless licensing, Intel will launch the Centrino 2 platform during an event in San Francisco. A number of PC vendors, including Hewlett-Packard, Lenovo, Toshiba and Fujitsu, are gearing up with a series of new notebooks to coincide with the release of Centrino 2, formerly code-named Montevina.

While Intel hopes to capture its share of back-to-school retail sales with Centrino 2, the new mobile platform is also an important launch for the enterprise as IT departments start to examine new laptops to purchase and vendors try to distinguish their notebooks from the competition.

When Centrino 2 debuts July 14, only some of the new chip sets and processors will be available at launch, which will delay lower-end notebooks that rely on Intel's own integrated graphics. Laptops that use discrete graphics from ATI or Nvidia will ship on time. An Intel spokesperson said all the products are shipping in volume and all the processors and chip sets will be available by early August.

The launch of Centrino 2 also comes at a time when both consumers and enterprise buyers are yearning for more mobility when it comes to computing. This is Intel's fifth version of its mobile platform and it comes at a time when notebook shipments and revenues are continuing to outpace desktops, making each new mobile platform more important than the last.

Advanced Micro Devices has also launched a new mobile platform, called Puma, which actually beat Intel to the market thanks to the delay. While both Intel and AMD are pursuing consumers, who right now are driving the PC market, Centrino is geared more toward large enterprise buyers, while Puma is designed for small and midsize businesses looking for a slightly less expensive notebook.

In addition to new processors, graphics and support for both Wi-Fi and WiMax, the new platform is likely to offer new security and management features through the company's vPro technology. (The Intel spokesperson declined to offer specifics on the updates to vPro before the official launch.)

There is already much known about Centrino 2 and what Intel will offer with the platform to entice enterprise buyers. First, Centrino 2 is the first mobile platform to use the company's 45-nanometer Penryn microprocessors, and reports indicate that the chips will have clock speeds ranging from 2.4GHz for low-power models to 2.8GHz or better for more mainstream processors. The platform will also support DDR3 (double data rate 3) memory.

Intel will roll out dual-core processors first and follow that with quad-core chips later.

The switch from 65-nm to 45-nm chips allows Intel to offer a platform that not only should increase battery life within notebooks, but also means that this new generation will be more energy-efficient and not run as hot as the previous generation of laptops. Indeed, an Intel blog revealed that many of the new notebook processors will run at 25 watts compared to older, 35-watt models.

The new Centrino platform will also allow OEMs to get more creative with their notebook designs and will give them a fresh opportunity to add features and different technologies.

"There is an opportunity here for Intel to sell to both its enterprise and consumer customers, but the Centrino launch has a lot of what the enterprise guys want, like vPro," said John Spooner, an analyst with Technology Business Research. "This launch is a nod to the enterprise side of the house and it's a big refresh opportunity for OEMs and their enterprise notebook lines. It's also a chance to show off some new innovations."

For instance, HP announced a number of new laptops in June that are likely to use the Centrino 2 platform. Among those designs was the HP EliteBook, with a magnesium alloy, 14.1-inch screen and reported 15 hours of battery life, which offers rugged features in a 4.7-pound case-much lighter than some other rugged or semirugged notebooks on the market.

On the networking side of the platform, Intel is offering a technology called Eco Peak, which will support Wi-Fi technology, including the newer 802.11 Draft-N standard, as well as WiMax. For now, the Wi-Fi technology remains more important as WiMax networks are still being developed in the United States, although the technology is beginning to gain presence overseas, especially in Asia.

For Intel, the launch of Centrino 2 is the company's last major announcement before it unveils its new Nehalem microarchitecture at its Developer Forum in San Francisco in August. The Nehalem chip will not appear in the company's mobile platform, code-named Calpella, until at least 2009.