RealTime IT News

Over 230 Designs for Mobile Napa

SAN FRANCISCO -- About to buy a notebook computer? You might want to wait until next year.

Intel provided more compelling details at an event here today about its forthcoming mobile processor, code-named Yonah. Yonah is slated to appear in notebooks in the first quarter of 2006.

Most of the press event was devoted to the chip giant's launch, also for early next year, of its Viiv brand of PCs aimed at consumers. Details below.

"Napa will be the fastest ramp-up in Intel history for a mobile platform," said Keith Kresen, Intel's director of marketing. Napa is Intel's code name for its next-generation mobile platform based on the dual-core Yonah processor.

To be sure, it's a certainty the new dual-core notebooks will cost more than the end-of -year bargains out this holiday season. But if price is not the only issue, Intel trotted out some compelling performance specs for the new systems. Company officials also noted the development effort was all done in parallel, so the chipsets, CPU and wireless technology are all new. Said Kresen: "No one is making any compromises, everything is better with Napa."

Power savings in the new Intel-based notebooks will make at least five hours of battery life standard. "I think a few years ago, few people would have predicted we could increase the performance and drop the energy requirements at the same time," said Kresen.

For example, Intel is claiming up to a 68 percent performance gain, as measured by the SPECint industry benchmarks; a 28 percent power saving as measured by MobileMark 2005; and a 30 percent reduction in the Intel components versus current models. Noting that benchmarks don't always reflect how systems are used, Intel showed a more "real world" demo of the time it took to convert a PowerPoint presentation to a PDF file while running Virus Scan software in the background. A test notebook powered by Napa performed 39 percent faster than a traditional high-end notebook based on Intel's current single-core Pentium M 780 running at 2.26GHz.

Intel is also moving from PCMCIA to the PCMCIA Express standard, which will add a second slot for components for notebook manufacturers who want to add such items as additional wireless capabilities or a TV tuner.

Intel says it knows of over 230 designs among customers for Napa, far more than for Centrino, its last major mobile platform launch, many of which will appear in the first half of next year. Kresen said there will also be more than 200 applications over that same time period that take advantage of Yonah's dual-core properties, where applications can run in parallel without the performance hit a traditional single-processor system would take.

On the consumer side, Intel gave a few more details about next year's Viiv-branded line of PCs. A major rollout is planned for next month's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

Microsoft has been pushing various solutions to make the so-called living room PC more popular, and Intel is making the software giant's Windows Media Center software a standard component of Viiv systems. But Eric Kim, Intel's chief marketing officer, said Media Center, while "the best software platform today," hasn't taken off, because it hasn't met the threshold of a compelling user experience with compelling content.

"A PC type of tower system with a fan and all the noise is okay for the study, but you would never think of putting that in the living room," said Kim.

Viiv systems will be quieter and, in some cases, very small. "You could argue that specs are secondary to many consumers," said Kim. "It's more about how the system feels, the user interface and what you can do with it. We think we're just touching the tip of the iceberg with what's possible."

Viiv PCs will include Intel's QuickResume technology, so systems can be turned off and on like a TV, without the usual lengthy rebooting process.

Kim said Intel spent hundreds of millions of dollars on its Centrino brand and expects to exceed that for Viiv. In other words, if this is the first time you're hearing about Viiv, it surely won't be the last.