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Intel plans straddle high, low ends

The chipmaker outlines its road map for desktop, mobile, and server lines, announcing a new mobile technology to extend battery life.

LOS ANGELES--Intel outlined its road map for desktop, mobile, and server chip lines today, announcing a new mobile technology designed to extend battery life.

In a keynote address at the WinHec developers conference here, senior vice president Pat Gelsinger disclosed plans that generally consist of faster megahertz speeds and better price performance.

"First we ignored the sub-$1,000 PC, then we denied its existence," he said, admitting Intel's slow start in the rapidly growing low-end market. "Now we've embraced it, and we're achieving good success with the Celeron line."

Intel recently introduced a Celeron running at 433 MHz and will launch a 500-MHz version in the second half of this year, Gelsinger said. Nathan Brookwood, an Insight 64 analyst attending the conference, said that Intel has accelerated the roll-out of high-speed Celeron processors.

Intel recently introduced a Celeron running at 433 MHz and will launch a 500-MHz version in the second half of this year, he said.

At the higher end of the scale, Gelsinger predicted "rapid migration" from the Pentium II to the recently introduced Pentium III processor, manufactured on the .25 micron process. Manufacturing on the .18 wafer will be available in the second half of this year, enabling processors running upwards of 600 MHz, he said.

Gelsinger was accompanied by a Microsoft product manager to demonstrate a PC zipping through a high-end application running on what was revealed to be an 800-MHz processor. Brookwood noted that the application running was probably enhanced by factors other than CPU speed, like memory.

The Intel executive also covered advances in graphics chipset technologies, along with desktop peripheral input devices, including the universal serial bus. USB 2.0 will be available in the second half of 2000, he said, supported by such companies as NEC, Compaq Computer, Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard, Philips, and Lucent Technologies.

For external storage devices, USB 2.0 will replace the SCSI standard, he said. Gelsinger predicted widespread acceptance of the second version of the connection technology by PC makers, despite the fact that initial adoption was slow.

He called for improvements in the interface from the PC to digital displays, an area that he says has lagged behind digital improvements in other peripheral connections. Intel is working on a universally accepted interface for digital monitors.

Gelsinger also touched on security issues, laying out Intel's goals of "secure virtual enterprises, trillions of trusted transactions, and ubiquitous digital content," but he shied away from discussing in detail the recent controversy surrounding Intel's decision to includ identifying serial numbers with each Pentium III processor.

The idea of consumer privacy is critical and must be built in to product technologies, he said, indicating that Intel has learned the importance of the appearance of privacy in the consumer market.

In the mobile space, Gelsinger stressed the importance of emerging technologies such as Bluetooth, which allows devices to "talk" to each other based on a radio frequency. He demonstrated prototype Bluetooth devices, including two Toshiba notebook computers connected without wires or cords. The first Bluetooth enabled products will ship in the second half of this year, with the first PC add-in cards available in the first half of 2000.

Extending battery life
Gelsinger announced Intel's Geyserville technology, which extends battery life in notebooks, a major concern for most mobile users. The technology is "the best of both worlds," he said, offering two modes: battery optimized and maximum performance. Users can switch between the two environments, he said.

Geyserville addresses the "challenging" problem of battery management, said Nathan Brookwood, an analyst with Insight 64. Geyserville reduces the voltage of the battery as well as the frequency, which results in much lower powered computing.

Intel's solution to the thorny problem of enabling high performance notebooks which do not drain batteries is "compelling," Brookwood said, especially compared to AMD's mobile processors, which tend to guzzle battery power at the expense of performance, he said.

Intel's strategy for notebook processors includes more Pentium II chips in the second half of this year, running at 400 and 433 MHz, followed by 500-MHz chips in 2000. These chips will be enabled by the .18 micron manufacturing process as well. For the low-end notebook market, Intel will release new mobile Celeron processors running at 400 MHz in the second half of this year.

Intel's advances in battery life will likely drive corporate sales of high-speed notebooks running on these processors, as large companies follow Intel's own lead and re-allocate more employee PCs to notebooks. The idea of mobile computers capable of running processor-intensive applications while maintaining battery life is extremely appealing to corporate buyers, Brookwood added.

Intel's strategy for notebook processors includes more Pentium II chips in the second half of this year, running at 400 and 433 MHz, followed by 500-MHz chips in 2000. These chips will be enabled by the .18 micron manufacturing process as well. For the low-end notebook market, Intel will release new mobile Celeron processors running at 400 MHz in the second half of this year.

Another major theme of Gelsinger's keynote was Intel's effort to PCs easier to use. The PC is "complex and difficult to use in some cases," he said, though he disputed the notion that the PC will be replaced by Internet appliances.

PCs will always be more useful than a scaled-down appliance for such things as e-commerce and complicated graphics. Successful appliances will be PC accessories, not PC replacements, he said.

To that end, Gelsinger said, Intel and Microsoft are working together on the Easy PC initiative, making the PC less complex so that it "just works."