Mobile

Intel aims Celeron at notebooks

Intel will release Celeron processors for low-cost notebooks and launches a line of low-power chips for mini-notebooks.

PALM SPRINGS, California--Intel will release Celeron processors for notebook computers in the $1,299 to $1,399 range during the first half of 1999, in an effort to hitch onto the next wave of low-cost computing.

Meanwhile, the chipmaker has already launched a new line of extra low-power chips for mini-notebooks, handheld computers that run the Windows 95 and 98 operating systems. A new low-power 266-MHz Pentium MMX was released today.

Celeron processors for low-cost notebooks will likely help fill what is becoming a large gap in the market place.

Computer dealers have been reporting that customers are flocking to sub-$1,400 notebooks. Dealers on the Web say that it only takes a few hours to clear out inventories of such systems.

Executives from major computer vendors, however, maintain that most notebook buyers demand performance over price. Most of their new products, as a result, have come in above the $2,000 price point.

Even if it's not clear who's right, it's certain that Intel competitors Cyrix and Advanced Micro Devices are already in the market for low-cost notebook chips. Indeed, AMD is expected to introduce another notebook chip next week.

Intel's future plans include a 300-MHz version of the venerable Pentium MMX chip for the "basic" (low-end) mobile computer market, which will come out in the first half of 1999, according to Jason Ziller, platform marketing manager at Intel. Then there will follow a series of low-powered chips that are similar but not the same as current mobile Pentium IIs and Celerons.

Effectively, this will make for a third line of chips for Intel in mobile computers.

Celeron notebook processors with integrated cache memory will also come out in the first half of next year, said Robert Jecmen, vice president of the Intel architecture business group.

For performance users, Intel will then follow the Celerons with a "Coppermine" chip for notebooks toward the start of the second half. Coppermine will contain the new "Katmai" instructions, which are intended to improve graphics and video. (See related story)

"This is going to be a significant segment of the mobile PC segment," Jecmen said. "In the $1,299 range, you will see mobile PCs with Celeron processors at 300 MHz."

The Coppermine chip will in fact likely debut on notebooks, Jecmen added.

The Intel executive would not divulge speeds or technical details on the upcoming chips, but other sources did. The Celeron processors for notebooks will likely come out at 233 MHz and faster. The Coppermine chip will run at faster than 500 MHz, according to other Intel executives, and be made on the advanced 0.18-micron production process.

The Coppermine chips will also likely contain twice the amount of integrated cache memory (256 kilobytes) found on the Celeron chips. Doubling the cache will improve processor performance, said analysts, and allow Intel to differentiate the Celeron offerings from the Pentium II machines.

Other sources added that a Pentium II chip without the Katmai instructions but with 256K of memory, code-named Dixon, will appear in the first quarter. This evolutionary step is expected to appear first on notebooks.

Intel is also expanding its offerings for notebook graphics chips. The chipmaker will release a new 2D graphics chip based around the 0.25-micron process toward the end of the year, coming out under the Chips and Technologies brand name, according to sources close to the company.

Intel is also readying a 3D mobile chip, code-named Mount Blanc, expected toward 2000. This will be the first graphics chip for notebooks released under the Intel name.

In other mobile developments, technology to better synchronize wireless communication devices and computers, an effort known as "Bluetooth," will begin to be implemented next year. Bluetooth aims to create technological standards so that wireless devices and PCs can connect by radio frequencies.

In addition, handheld computers based around the StrongArm processor being made by Intel are expected to come out in 1999.

The company also used its Developer Conference for releasing new Mobile Power Management Guidelines. The guidelines specify recommendations for maximum power consumption for notebooks and their components.

New guidelines specify separate recommendations for standard notebooks and mini-notebooks for the first time, Ziller pointed out. The new standards do not lower power consumption, he said, but show how computer vendors can accommodate higher levels of performance in the same thermal parameters.

Intel is an investor in CNET: The Computer Network.