Intel uncodes Dothan

Intel Corp. announced that it has added features to the updated versions of its successful Pentium M processors released Monday without sacrificing battery life — a move that one analyst said will make a big difference to users.

The new chips, formally code-named Dothan, are Intel’s first mobile processors built on its 90-nanometer technology, which according the company produces smaller and faster transistors. Although the updated Pentium M CPUs and the radios are the same as those in the original Pentium M processors released in March of last year, according to Intel Canada, there are some significant changes.

The new Pentium M processors — which are featured in Intel’s Centrino-based systems as of Monday — have a bigger cache, from 1.7GHz to 2.0GHz and will be the first product that introduces the processor number naming scheme, said Doug Cooper, country manager for Intel Canada in Toronto.

The scheme was designed to break the new chip sets into three areas: good, better and best.

There will be a 300 family, which will end up being Celeron products, then a 500 family, which is the better and the best will be represented by the 700 series. In mobility the Centrino products will fall into the 700 family, explained Cooper. The numbers will be unique based on the set of features that are in the product.

Introduced Monday are the Intel Pentium M processor 735 with an L2 cache of 2MB, speeds of 1.7GHz and a list price of US$294 in 1,000 unit quantities; the 745 with an L2 cache of 2MB, speeds of a 1.8GHz and a list price of $US423; and the 755 with the same cache as the previous two, speeds of 2.0GHz and a list price of US$637.

While developing the newest mobile processors, Cooper said Intel’s engineers used a philosophy that was very different from anything Intel had used in the past. He said the engineering team was told that any sort of technology they wanted to use to enhance performance could not compromise battery life.

“In the past, performance was key and you would put what ever feature you could put in regardless of what it would do, within limits, but in this particular case we concentrated on making sure we continued to deliver on the experience that people expected from Centrino,” Cooper said.

Battery life is critical to powerbook users because it enables them to work on the go and set up their computer wherever they are. It allows for that anywhere, anytime productivity, explained Michelle Warren, an analyst at Evans Research Corp. (ERC) in Toronto.

Using Wi-Fi in hotspot locations does suck up a fair amount of batter life, Warren said. So by releasing chips that are power-aware or power-friendly and don’t suck up all the juice from battery life, what Intel is doing is strengthening its commitment to the wireless networking push, she added.

Its commitment to wireless networking is something that Intel takes very seriously, according to Cooper, who added that it has verified over 32,000 hotspots worldwide, 300 of those in Canada.

“When we went in to create a new category, wireless mobility, if we didn’t have enough places for people to experience [it] we knew it would fall flat so we spent a lot of time working with wireless services providers to build out and educate the market on this whole concept of hotspots and how you could get access to the Internet in public places,” Cooper said.

Luckily for Intel, hotspot growth won’t be diminishing anytime soon according to ERC’s Warren. She said that although the double-digit growth seen with the advent of hotspots may not occur, some growth is still to come.

One area that will see much growth are trade shows or temporary hotspot locations, Warren said. Organizations want people to attend their shows and they will want to make it painless for guests to connect to the Internet.

Cooper shared Warren’s view that hotspot locations will keep popping up for some time yet, but he also acknowledged the fact that there will never be complete coverage with Wi-Fi alone.

“You would need to supplement [Wi-Fi] by things like cellular technologies and so we are working…on ways to have inter-carrier, inter-network roaming,” he said.

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