Intel takes aim on the mobile market

Intel launched its new Centrino platform last week, with much fanfare and applause.

  • E-Mail
By  Mark Sutton Published  March 12, 2003

Intel launched its new Centrino platform last week, with much fanfare and applause.

The platform-essentially a Pentium M (for mobile) processor, one of two dedicated 855 chipsets and a 802.11b wi-fi adapter-was introduced as the future of mobile computing, a revolution in business productivity, and so on and so forth. But is Centrino worth the hype?

Certainly the initial product offerings that carry the Centrino badge seem to be a lot thinner and lighter than their predecessors. The company suggests that because of the power consumption and efficiency features of the new processors, the average battery life can be stretched to around five hours, and some independent tests have even gotten six or seven hours worth out of a standard lithium ion battery.

The performance features are also supposed to be pretty good, according to the same testers. In fact, the performance of the Centrino 1.6Ghz actually exceeds that of the Pentium 4-M 2.4Ghz by 12-15%, for only a slightly higher price.

All of which is great news for mobile users, who can get better performance, for longer, with the flexibility of wireless connectivity and without risking a hernia or slipped disc by dragging around a few extra kilos of spare batteries, cables, adapters and so on.

The question is, is Intel really pushing a great leap forward in technology, or is this an advanced marketing exercise? Take the connectivity part. Intel has been producing networking equipment for some time, but so have a lot of other companies.

If you chose a thin and light notebook with a US Robotics wi-fi card you could have connection at 22Mbps, instead of the 11Mbps currently on offer with Centrino. However, if an assembler or OEM decides against the Intel PRO/Wireless 2100 adapter, then it can't badge its machine as 'Centrino'.

Similarly, Intel is putting a lot into the wireless hotspots, which will provide the all-important connectivity in strategic locations. At present there are very few of these hotspots in existence, but with the analysts predicting that there will be 118,000 hotspots by 2005, expect them to ramp up soon. Again, Intel is not the only company that makes the equipment, but it is going full steam ahead on the branding of them, working very closely with the telcos and others that want to deploy them.

The company is also keeping a close rein on its chipsets, and has not licensed them to any other company yet, probably with a view to controlling the market. Via, still in dispute over a previous batch of Intel chipsets, is reportedly not too concerned whether Intel will sell them a licence or not, planning to launch in the second half of this year regardless. Nevertheless, none of its competitors actually look to be anywhere Intel right at the moment either, so it could well steal a march on the market in the wireless arena.

Intel says it has also taken great steps to ensure cross-compatibility with other connectivity options, which should at least mean that competitors in the networking market can still compete on a technical basis.

Aside from any confusion resulting from the fact that the slower-clocked Centrino is actually outperforming the faster clocked Pentium 4-M, the whole launch seems to be putting forward a strong platform to develop the technology from. The Centrino brand will provide resellers with an easy hook for customers who know Intel but don’t know about wi-fi. The concern for Intel’s competitors will be that the chip giant doesn’t manage to convince consumers that Centrino is the only option for wireless.

Add a Comment

Your display name This field is mandatory

Your e-mail address This field is mandatory (Your e-mail address won't be published)

Security code