Intel goes mobile with Centrino


12 Mar 2003

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Billing it as the biggest launch since the arrival of the Pentium chip, Intel today launched its new mobile solution, Centrino.

The product incorporates a new mobile processor and chipset along with integrated wireless capability. Power saving is another feature of the Centrino design and Intel hopes to push average notebook battery life out to four or five hours with the new product.

Centrino is not just a processor and comprises three main elements, an Intel Pentium M processor, the Intel 855 chipset family and the Intel PRO/wireless 2100 network connection. The company said that all components were optimised and tested together with mobility in mind.

The new processor, the Pentium M was designed from the ground up, according to Intel executives. Features include Micro-Ops Fusion, which combines two micro-operations into one, enabling it to execute faster and at a lower power, and Advanced Branch prediction, a new implementation technique to help reduce overall latency in the system. The processor is manufactured using Intel’s 0.13 micron process. It includes a 400MHz power optimised system bus and a 1MB low power L2 cache (which turns off parts of the high-speed memory when it’s not needed). It also supports Enhanced SpeedStep technology with multiple voltage and frequency operating points.

The 855 chipset family includes two new chipsets developed for the mobile market, the 855PM supporting discrete graphics and the 855GM with integrated Intel Extreme Graphics 2. Both chipsets support up to 2GB of DD266 memory along with USB 2.0.

The Intel PRO/wireless 2100 network connection has been designed to connect to 802.11b access points. It also supports wireless LAN (local area network) security features such as 802.11x, WEP and VPN (virtual private network) technologies. It will be software upgradeable to support WPA (Wi-Fi Protected Access).

A number of different clock speeds are available, 1.3GHz, 1.4GHz, 1.5GHz and 1.6GHz. A low voltage 1.1GHz processor is available along with an ultra-low voltage 900MHz model. Intel sees the latter two as ideal models for Tablet PC type form factors. The company says that machines based on Centrino will be available immediately and estimate that prices will start at around US$1,399 (€1,269).

Given the nature of the new product, Intel is also starting a big push in promoting wireless internet access. As part of the launch, the company has been working with wireless network providers to accelerate development and increase awareness. Intel has also developed a Wireless Verification Program, which includes testing of Centrino products with various access points and software combinations to ensure compatibility. It hopes to have verified more than 10,000 hotspots by the end of the year.

As part of the program it has introduced a co-branding initiative which it hopes will enable mobile internet users to easily identify hotspots through the Centrino logo.

Here in Ireland, Intel announced a co-marketing agreement with O2, which has recently launched its own wireless hotspot network. Intel executives confirmed that the deal was not exclusive and that the company hoped to work with other Irish wireless providers.

By Dick O’Brien