Ultramobile PCs to get boost from Intel

Despite tepid sales (remember Origami?), a new generation of ultramobile PCs will arrive this year, and next year they might run on Linux. Photos: It's ultramobile PC day in China

BEIJING--Despite tepid sales of early units, Intel is doubling down on its investment in technology for handheld PCs with new chips and Linux support.

Intel executives Dadi Perlmutter and Anand Chandrasekher are expected to unveil the Ultra Mobile platform 2007 later on Wednesday at the Intel Developer Forum here. Formerly know as McCaslin, the platform comes with one of two Intel processors designed specifically for UMPCs, introduced last year as hybrid notebook PC/BlackBerry devices.

While systems based on the Ultra Mobile 2007 product will fall into Microsoft's Origami fold--and run Windows Vista--in 2008 Intel plans to bring out UMPCs and so-called mobile Internet devices (MIDs) that run Linux. Red Flag Linux and Canonical (Ubuntu) are the first vendors that have signed onto the program. That generation of devices will also come with a special low-power chip called "Silverthorne" that is based on Intel's 45-nanometer manufacturing technology.

Intel says it thinks these devices, once they have been refined, have lots of potential for mobile workers and consumers who want more processing power than found in a smart phone or PDA. But early reactions to UMPCs have been mixed. The devices are very capable, but very expensive, and haven't made a dent in the PC market.

MIDs should have more of an impact, with longer battery life and more powerful processors, Chandrasekher said. But Intel and its partners are setting audacious goals for the project.

"When you look at the high end of the smart phone market, that will largely get replaced by (UMPCs and MIDs)," Chandrasekher said after his keynote. The idea would be that these devices would have multiple radios for connecting to both cellular and Wimax wireless networks, and voice calls could be made over either network. Smart phone momentum continues on while UMPCs sputter, however, and that's even before the arrival of Apple's iPhone.

But while Intel waits for the UMPC or MID to take off, it's continuing to improve its products for traditional notebook PCs.

Intel is expected next month to launch Santa Rosa, the latest refresh to its Centrino marketing strategy. Santa Rosa comes with an improved chipset and Intel Turbo Memory, formerly known as Robson. Intel Turbo Memory is simply flash memory built into a notebook that can help the system save power by accommodating a new hibernation mode.

And in 2008, Intel is expected to launch the "Montevina" notebook technology, which will come with built-in support for WiMax, the long-range wireless networking technology.

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