Intel raises the stakes on Wi-Fi chips

The chipmaker is developing a Wi-Fi chip for portable devices as well as a software access point for desktop PCs as it looks beyond Wi-Fi chips for notebooks.

John G. Spooner Staff Writer, CNET News.com
John Spooner
covers the PC market, chips and automotive technology.
John G. Spooner
2 min read
Chipmaker Intel is developing new Wi-Fi products as it looks to expand its influence beyond the notebook market.

Intel president Paul Otellini said Thursday at a meeting with financial analysts that the company is working on new Wi-Fi products, including a software-based access point and a low-power Wi-Fi chip for portable devices.

The move into new areas comes as Intel, which according to Otellini is the market leader in shipments of Wi-Fi chips, tries to increase its sway in wireless markets. Besides planning new chips and the built-in PC access points, Intel has also been discussing selling its wireless modules, designed for Centrino notebooks, to consumer electronics manufacturers and other companies.

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The company has been slow to offer Wi-Fi chips it has developed internally. But the new chips are likely to show that Intel aims to increase its grip on the Wi-Fi market.

Otellini said Intel's forthcoming desktop processor chipset, codenamed Grantsdale and due in the first half of next year, will include a software-based wireless access point. Grantsdale will be used with the chipmaker's upcoming desktop processor, code-named Prescott.

The software-based access point feature would essentially enable a "desktop (to) act like an access point inside the home," Otellini said. The feature would require a radio to be used with the desktop.

It would likely eliminate the need for consumers to buy a low-end, 802.11b access point in order to set up a home network. A person would instead be able to use the built-in access point to create a wireless network and connect consumer electronics devices to the network. The feature is unlikely to be available in inexpensive PCs at first.

He also said Intel will bring out an "ultra low power" 802.11 chip in 2004 that can be added to personal digital assistants and cell phones.

Chipmakers Atheros, Broadcom and Royal Philips Electronics are also working on Wi-Fi chips for portable devices, including cell phones. The new chips are meant to be smaller and more power-efficient versions of their current 802.11b products and thus better suited to portable devices, which tend to have smaller batteries than notebooks.