Intel debuts cheaper mobile chip

Intel Corp. introduced Celeron M on Monday, a lower-cost version of its nine-month-old Pentium M Centrino mobile technology processor chip, which targets users that love their notebooks, but don’t place a high priority on wireless connectivity.

The announcement highlights one particular group of wireless users, according to Doug Cooper, country manager for Intel Canada in Toronto. He said that Intel has recognized that people are using notebooks in different ways, and the release of Celeron M focuses on one of those groups — the mobility group.

Unlike the second group of users called the portability group — which includes notebook users that still spend most of their time connected to a power plug or land adapter — Cooper said the mobility group is a class of wireless users that value the mobility aspect of their notebooks.

“That’s people who still value longer battery life, aren’t necessarily looking for integrated wireless connectivity, want a thinner, lighter kind of…notebook, but want to pay less,” Cooper explained.

Because wireless technology is taking off in corporations, Cooper doesn’t expect the Celeron M to be the chip of choice in large enterprises that would want more wireless connectivity, but said that the small business user would be the better candidate for the technology.

Looking ahead, Cooper said that he predicts a rise in the adoption of wireless technology. He said that although wireless will take some time to catch on, he predicts the biggest surge in usage will come from corporate users that are becoming more comfortable with the security side of wireless computing.

What notebook users have to remember when deciding between Intel’s Pentium M and Celeron M processors is that Centrino is the umbrella term used to describe Intel’s premium line of wireless technology with the Pentium M as the processor chip. But there is no Centrino line for the the Celeron M chip, there is only the chip, explained Shane Rau, a PC chip analyst with International Data Corp. (IDC) in Mountainview, Calif., meaning that the Centrino brand name and the Celeron M chip are not affiliated.

Rau added that when putting the two chips side by side, it is interesting to note that the Celeron M chip is late to the market.

“Not in the sense that Intel had any problems producing it but in the sense that Pentium M and Centrino were introduced in March of last year and here we are nine months later and we are just getting the value version of the Pentium M,” Rau said. He added that this delay “implies where Intel’s focus is.”

“Intel’s focus is on the Pentium M and even more so on the Centrino platform and brand. The Celeron M is a relative placeholder in the product line,” he added.

Celeron M does have a role in the product line, Rau said, which is to provide a cheaper mobile processor and because the Celeron M is based on the same architecture as the Pentium M, users will get a good balance of performance and battery life, while the average person will be able to “save a little money.”

He added that the value for Intel in terms of the Celeron M is to “establish a part that accentuates the value of the premium part.”

He said that traditionally, Celeron as a value version brand on the desktop side tends to account for about 20 per cent of sales relative to its premium counterpart.

“So, it’s by no means the gangbuster in Intel’s product lines and that’s the way Intel wants it,” Rau added.

Along with the addition of the Celeron M processor, Cooper said that Intel will also be introducing follow up products to its Pentium M technology line in the first half of 2004.

According to Intel, in 1,000-unit quantities, the Celeron M processors at 1.30GHz and 1.20GHz are priced at US$134 and US$107 respectively. The ULV Celeron M processor at 800MHz is priced at US$161.

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