Intel introduces Centrino

As wireless local area networks (WLANs) continue to gain momentum, Intel is further enhancing the usability of 802.11b wireless networks with the introduction of its Centrino mobile technology.

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By  Zoe Moleshead Published  February 26, 2003

Centrino technology|~||~||~|As wireless local area networks (WLANs) continue to gain momentum, Intel is further enhancing the usability of 802.11b wireless networks with the introduction of its Centrino mobile technology.

Centrino consists of three components — Intel’s Pentium M processor, 855 chipset and PRO/wireless network connection — all of which will be supplied on the motherboard of new notebooks. Only when the three components are used together can a machine be branded Centrino.

“The Intel Centrino mobile technology is a combination if three products — the processor, the chipset and a wireless component,” confirms Ferruh Gurtas, business development manager, Intel, Middle East & North Africa.

“But the OEM or vendor doesn’t have to buy all these three components at once. They can buy the CPU and the chipset and use their own wireless technology, but then they cannot use the Centrino logo,” he explains.

According to Intel, the Centrino initiative is designed to help standardise the various wireless technologies that are available and ensure smoother connections and service levels for users. As such, the vendor is working with Bluetooth and GPRS solutions to help eliminate any potential interference problems between 802.11b and these technologies.

“We are trying to standardise wireless networking. Right now there are lots of different bandwidth options with Bluetooth, GPRS and 802.11 solutions. We are trying to test and evaluate these solutions to reduce the possible collision between them,” explains Gurtas.

“We are testing some third party Bluetooth and GPRS components with our chips so that the overall solution the end user receives from Intel offers seamless connectivity with either Bluetooth, GPRS or 802.11,” he adds.

While the Centrino technology is expected to provide a boost to the wireless market and further stimulate uptake, Intel is also planning to target any potential wireless hotspots with its technology. The vendor has already outlined airports, shopping centres and hotels as targets in the local market.

“We are going to work with the telcos in each of our focus markets, and we will be working with public spaces, like airports, hotels, coffee chains and shopping malls to enable those places with wireless hotspots,” says Gurtas.

Intel’s Centrino technology has, however, raised some concerns among wireless component makers, primarily those that provide wireless cards. With Intel’s rival, AMD, also planning to add wireless capabilities to the motherboard, this may lead to a smaller, more competitively priced component market.

Gurtas, however, argues that many of the larger vendors are backing the Centrino technology, recognising that the revenues in the wireless market are gained not from the smaller components, but from access points and software.

“One of the industry leaders working on this project (Centrino) is Cisco. It is more than happy to work with us because the wireless component is now a commodity. None of the vendors are planning to make money from the PMCIA cards or wireless components,” says Gurtas.

“The main solution of wireless and the prime money maker is the infrastructure, which is the access points and the software behind it,” he continues.

Other vendors, such as 3Com, believe the Centrino technology will stimulate demand for wireless solutions, with the relatively immature and rapidly evolving nature of the wireless market ensuring that it does not impact the component market too heavily. Additionally, legacy notebooks and USB adapters will still require wireless cards and other components.

“LAN (local area network) connections and modems have been built into PCs for some time now, yet there is still a huge market for add on cards. This is because speeds and standards change,” says Buddie Ceronie, regional director, multi-country region, business networks company, 3Com.

“Inevitably it [Centrino] will stimulate the wireless market, but there will be increased demand for add on cards because wireless is still a fairly immature technology and likely to change quite dramatically over the next 12-18 months,” he adds.||**||

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