Intel touts a sleek, wireless computing future

Intel Corp. will work more with hardware makers to design smaller computers and mobile devices that will be linked via wireless technology, the chip maker said Feb. 27.

Executives from Intel’s PC and mobile computing divisions during keynote speeches at the Intel Developer Forum in San Francisco shed light on various projects both inside the company and with partners to pack more processing power into a smaller space. Major industry-wide moves are under way to create compact PCs and mobile computers that will always be linked by an array of wireless networks.

Intel will try to do its part to bring about this vision of mobile computing by providing its next-generation Pentium 4 processor, code named “Prescott,” to PC makers. Powerful desktops using the Prescott chips could server as a connection hub for other devices in the home, acting almost like a server for wireless stereos, laptops, writing tablets and other products, said Louis Burns, vice-president and general manager for Intel’s Desktop Platforms Group.

Prescott should ship in the second half of next year and will use Intel’s Netburst architecture and hyper-threading technology to increase chip performance. Hyper-threading technology can make a single chip appear as two processors to the operating system, which can help a PC run a number of applications at once.

Intel claims it will be able to make chips run up to 10GHz with its current architecture and demonstrated what it called the first 4GHz PC.

Faster chips are just one part of the equation for Intel, as the company is working with PC makers to embed technology such as wireless support in every PC. Compact PCs using the 802.11 wireless standard and gigabit Ethernet support will be out in 2003, Burns said.

Intel is also working on a concept program called Big Water. The company will provide more details about the project in the third quarter of this year. Big Water PCs will be about the size of a large encyclopaedia volume and could be mounted on walls or other parts of a home. Parts of Big Water PCs, such as hard drives, could also be easily removed and swapped with newer technology. This would allow users to buy one piece of hardware that could be constantly upgraded, Burns said.

“We believe that this will be the platform in the (2004) timeframe,” Burns said.

Intel, Microsoft Corp. and Acer Inc. are also working on a laptop that works as a writing pad. The top of the laptop’s lid is actually a tablet PC, running Microsoft’s Tablet PC operating system, which can recognize handwriting.

Intel and Microsoft are additionally working together on the Mobility Enablement Program, announced Wednesday by Anand Chandrasekher, vice-president and general manager of Intel’s Mobile Platforms Group.

“We need to identify the key hurdles with wireless technology so we can work together to remove them for the good of the industry at large,” Chandrasekher said.

Intel is trying to encourage partners to build out wireless networks that provide enough security and widespread connections to make wireless communication feasible for large businesses. Over the next few months, Intel will lay out its framework for creating a network that would let users move around offices or cities and always stay connected to the network.

Ron Smith, senior vice-president and general manger for Intel’s Communications and Computing Group, was the last keynote speaker of the morning. Brown made two significant announcements.

Along with Microsoft’s Todd Warren, manager of the Embedded Platforms Group, he announced that Intel’s PCA (Personal Internet Client Architecture) Developer Kit will include Microsoft’s Platform Builder for developers with optimizations for Intel’s X-scale architecture.

The Intel Developer Kit will support operating systems from Symbian Ltd. and Palm Inc., as well as Linux, but only the Microsoft component is optimized with an Arm Ltd. compiler to take advantage of Intel’s extensions to the Arm instruction set as well as additional optimizations for the X-scale system board.

Finally, Smith announced Intel’s intention to build what he called “wireless Internet on a chip.” The future product will integrate X-scale, flash memory and a GSM (Global Standard for Mobile Communications)/GPRS (General Packet Radio Service) wireless subsystem on the chip core. The chip is targeted at 2.5G (2.5 generation) and 3G (third-generation) converged data and voice devices.

Intel, in Santa Clara, Calif., can be reached at

(Ephraim Schwartz, editor-at-large for InfoWorld, an IDG News Service affiliate, contributed to this report.)