RealTime IT News

Mobile Workstation Goes Mainstream

A trio of well-known IT companies is launching a pilot program designed to get Electronic Design Automation (EDA) engineers out of the office.

IBM, and Intel announced the effort Monday. It consists of a ThinkPad mobile workstation powered by Intel's Centrino mobile chips and running Cadence Design Systems' Virtuoso software over a Linux-based operating system.

Long reserved for custom orders, the over-the-counter mobile workstation is the fruit of an idea to make a laptop as powerful as a networked desktop. Certain product launches in the last six months helped bring the new laptops to the forefront. In addition to some faster chip speeds and better memory, IBM's ThinkPad T42p has an "air bag" for protecting data on hard drives if the notebook is dropped.

Running on Intel's Pentium M processors 735, 745, and 755 (code named Dothan). The laptops include a large 15-inch LCD screen, viewable from 170 degrees.

"This solution will change the way engineers work," Kevin Reardon, general manager, IBM global electronics industry said in a statement. "Beyond the freedom they gain to do mobile circuit-design work, they will also have the ability to perform routine office tasks -- they will no longer be required to switch workstations between the office and the lab."

The new laptop configuration may come as warm comfort to EDA software engineers, which create the world's electronic products, including devices used in communications, computers, space technology, medical and industrial equipment and consumer electronics.

The EDA market is seeing tremendous growth these days. The latest market statistics from the industry's consortium point to industry revenue for Q4 of 2003 at $1,021 million, a 13 percent increase over Q4 2002. This was the first time in two years that industry revenue from reporting companies topped $1 billion, and the first quarter since Q1 2001 to show double-digit revenue growth.

Making workstations more mobile could also have the potential to transform computing for the energy, oil and gas industry, enabling high-performance mobility for geo-scientists and engineers, the companies said.

IBM said it is turning to the Linux operating system because it has become increasingly popular for engineering in key industries such as automotive, energy, electronics, pharmaceutical and life sciences -- sectors that have traditionally relied on UNIX-based platforms for collaborative product design and development.

Intel said its developers are already testing the new laptops for engineering and product development functions, with plans for broader deployment starting in the second half of the year. Engineers at National Semiconductor and IBM Microelectronics are also putting the new laptops through their own trials.

"We are now experiencing a paradigm shift in the way we design our chips, and this shift is being accelerated by the advent of mobile computing," Steven Klass, chair of the International Cadence Usergroup SysSIG, said in a statement. "Mobile computing enables an environment that un-tethers our design engineers, which in turn improves productivity, and reduces time-to-market."