Intel gears for January launch of mobile dual-core processor

Chipmaker Intel Corporation is giving mobile computing a boost in performance and much better power efficiency, with a goal of enabling eight-hour continuous battery life by 2008.

Intel’s sequel to the Centrino mobile platform, codenamed Napa, is equipped with its Yonah dual-core processor technology that promises to be nearly 40 per cent faster than the current Sonoma Intel Pentium M 780 processor, said Karen Regis, director of mobile marketing programs for Intel in Santa Clara, Calif.

Dual-core technology uses two separate processors for a single computer enabling faster performance, reduced power consumption and more efficient simultaneous processing of multiple tasks.

To be officially launched in January, the new Napa mobile platform is 42 per cent more power-efficient than the current Sonoma Centrino, with reduced average battery power from over four watts to three watts.

Intel is expecting a big increase in the adoption of mobile computers in businesses, noting that almost 40 per cent of Intel processors being shipped into the market go to notebook computers, and a large portion of those notebooks goes to businesses, said Regis.

Research firm Gartner Inc. has predicted that adoption of portable PC systems will grow from over 30 million units in 2003 to 74 million by next year. This was a prediction Gartner made last August. In 2003, the research firm’s forecast for mobile adoption by 2006 was only at 51 million units.

“Mobility is on the rise as firms are clearly buying into the value of computing mobility in the workplace. Our 2005 survey of large enterprises reinforces the trend that more firms are providing traditional desktop users with laptops,” the research firm stated.

IDC Canada analyst Eddie Chan agrees with this trend, pointing out that notebooks ideally “address people’s increasing connectivity, productivity and entertainment needs.”

“Without question, the Canadian PC market’s run up over the past couple of years has been spurred on by this mobility trend,” said Chan, who specializes in mobile/personal computing & technology programs.

Regis believes this trend is driven by the closing gap in performance and price between desktop and notebook computers, and the decreasing cost of managing the mobile fleet.

Intel is not disclosing specifics on the pricing for the new Intel Napa mobile platform, but expects it to be “straight price-point replacement” for the current Centrinos in the marketplace.

Although the Napa processors would most likely have a higher price point when launched next month, Regis said pricing is expected to come down to volume, mainstream levels by end of next year.

In enhancing power efficiency, Intel has been working with manufacturers, specifically with display vendors, on designing their panels to work well with Napa’s 3-watt battery power while providing high quality and high-resolution products, said Regis.

“We have something that we call display power savings technology that can take an image in strained buffer and brighten it up. It’s an OEM (original equipment manufacturer) implement where they can reduce the brightness of the panel, saving power but still getting the same image quality,” she said.

She added Intel is continuously working to improve battery life on the Napa Centrino “to get to that final vision of all-day (mobile) computing.”

According to Intel, the 2006 mobile client powered by the Napa platform would bring more capabilities and user experience for mobile computing compared to the typical portable PC two years ago. These new capabilities relate to multi-tasking, multi-threading, constant computing, productivity, manageability, collaboration and entertainment, said Regis.

Intel has been working with Microsoft to make the Napa platform ready for the upcoming Windows Vista, formerly known as Longhorn. In addition, there are over 200 software applications that can run on the mobile dual-core platform, Intel said.