Thursday, May 10, 2007

Intel Corp to upgrade its Centrino laptop

Intel Corp. is set to launch new hardware for laptop computers that the world's biggest chipmaker hopes will keep it at the top of the fastest-growing segment of the personal computer market.

Intel's new product is not a processor but is instead a platform -- a whole package of components including the main processor as well as all the secondary chips that add features such as the ability to connect to a wireless network.

Platforms rarely grab attention outside of technical circles, but Intel is generating wider interest this time because its new products are the first to use flash memory chips, which should translate into faster performance and longer battery life.

"Santa Rosa" is the code-name for the latest big overhaul of Centrino, Intel's hugely successful laptop platform brand that helped popularize the Wi-Fi wireless technology now standard in the industry.

"Intel has done a lot of things to save power here and there and the overall message of Santa Rosa is more features, more performance with little or no impact on battery life," said Nathan Brookwood, head of consultancy Insight 64.

Intel, which has about 80 percent of the overall PC market, has traditionally been even more dominant in the laptop segment and updates Centrino about once a year to try to maintain its lead over rival Advanced Micro Devices Inc.

Laptop computers are the hottest part of the PC business. Last year, worldwide PC shipments rose just over 7 percent, but sales of laptops jumped 26 percent, compared to just 2 percent for desktops, according to market research firm IDC.

The new hardware will boost performance and battery life by storing some data on flash memory like that found in digital media players and digital cameras. Flash chips can be accessed more quickly than a hard drive and also use less power.

Intel says it has also improved the integrated graphics of Centrino laptops, adding features and software that make video richer and more akin to what people would see on a television.

In addition, Intel is supporting the latest version of the Wi-Fi wireless technology that can deliver a maximum access speed of 300 megabits per second, about five times faster than the current popular version.

"There are probably a greater number of improvements on this platform and they are spread all throughout," Mike Trainor, Intel's chief technology evangelist for mobile products, said of Santa Rosa.

"I think we'll look back on this and say there were lots of fundamental capabilities that came out here," Trainor said.

So far, PC manufacturers have drawn up 230 system designs using Santa Rosa, about 50 more than the last Centrino update, Trainor said. Intel is set to release more details about Santa Rosa on Wednesday at an event in San Francisco.

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