Intel to kick off new year with Yonah and Viiv

Bets that dual-core notebook chip Yonah and home entertainment Viiv PCs will make 2006 brighter than recent years.

Michael Kanellos Staff Writer, CNET News.com
Michael Kanellos is editor at large at CNET News.com, where he covers hardware, research and development, start-ups and the tech industry overseas.
Michael Kanellos
4 min read
SAN FRANCISCO--Intel will try to start 2006 off with a bang by releasing Yonah, a brand new notebook chip, and then follow with a push to move PCs into the living room.

Yonah, a dual-core notebook chip based on a new design, will be released in January, said Keith Kresslin, director of mobile platforms marketing at Intel. It is expected to provide around 68 percent better performance than current Intel notebook chips, which sport one processing core. Computers with Yonah will also be better than PCs today at running many applications at once, he said.

"You will be able to do a Skype voice call while playing video games," Kresslin said Tuesday at a company presentation here.

Laptops and small desktop computers featuring Yonah are also scheduled to come out at the same time as the chip.

The Santa Clara, Calif.-based chipmaker hopes to reverse its recent fortunes with the plans for next year. In 2004, the company tripped over manufacturing glitches and canceled products. In 2005, the product and production problems vanished, but Intel continued to lose market share to rival Advanced Micro Devices.

The processor/chipset/Wi-Fi chip bundle in Yonah-based notebooks is expected to consume only 3 watts of power on average, less than the 4.2-watt average seen on current cutting-edge laptops. The power savings partly result from the chip's ability to complete tasks faster. However, Yonah also comes with new circuitry designed to cut power consumption.

Many Yonah notebooks will be smaller than their contemporary counterparts, Intel executives said. (Kresslin, however, did not say what the thermal ceiling, or TDP, is for Yonah, which could add some bulk and impact power consumption on some Yonah systems.)

The first quarter of 2006 should also see the debut of Viiv PCs, which contain several chips and software from Intel. These computers, which will be positioned as nerve centers for home entertainment, are designed to store music, record TV shows and serve up family photos and videos. By the second half of next year, they will also allow people to pass movies to handhelds even if the films have been protected with antipiracy software, Intel said.

The company also plans to test the Viiv PC extensively for compatibility with other devices, such as handhelds and LCD TVs, and with services for downloading content. These products and services will carry a label that shows they work with Viiv, similar to the wireless hot-spot compatibility campaign Intel conducts with Centrino notebooks.

"There is no unifying platform that puts these things together," said Eric Kim, the chief marketing officer at Intel. "It (Viiv) will play a role in the living room."

Viiv PCs will be shown off at the upcoming Computer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, where sources say Intel will also unfurl an additional list of studios and producers that will provide Viiv-certified content services. Forty allies have already been announced.

The first Viiv computers aren't expected to hit until the first quarter, however. The PCs will come out in nine countries first and spread to others soon after. TVs, Internet-enabled DVD players and other devices for ViiV compatibility, along with the ViiV-certified content services, will be released in the second half of next year, Intel said.

"We've spent a lot of energy and time with the content providers giving them the necessary assurances so they can put their content online," Kim said. Negotiations with movie studios and the like began back around 2002, he noted. Among other diplomatic overtures: Intel helped sponsor the Producers Guild Awards dinner in 2004.

Part of Intel's problems in 2005 revolved a lack of new, compelling products. Other than a new round of notebook chips in January, Intel didn't release that many products over the 12 months, one company executive noted. The dual-core chips released by Intel were very similar to the single-core versions: One of the main differences was that the two chips hadn't been sawed apart.

Yonah and Presler, another dual-core notebook chip, will come out in the first half of 2006, while completely new families of server, notebook and desktop chips will hit in the second half. Intel has also begun to produce 65-nanometer chips, something rival AMD won't start doing until the second half of next year.

Tech details to come
While Intel did not release many new technical details about Yonah, it shed some light on the configuration of Viiv systems. The PCs will come with a Yonah chip, a dual-core Pentium D chip or an Extreme Edition chip, depending on what the consumer wants. They will also come with a special variety of chipsets.

One of the features Intel and PC manufacturers will play up is QuickResume. With this, you hit a button, and the PC switches on. "I don't need to wait anymore to turn on the PC and reboot," said Merlin Kister, a technology program manager for Viiv.

How does Intel get rid of the lengthy boot-up time? Technically, the PC never turns off. When consumers hit the "off" button, they are just shutting off the audio and video. It's the same reason why consumer electronics items power up so easily, Kister added.

Viiv PCs will include RAID functionality, so users can back up their files on two or more drives. In the second half of 2006, they will come with two bits of software--Intel Hub Connection Technology and Viiv Media Server--that will make it easier to set up home networks and connect peripheral devices, executives said.