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Intel's Next-Gen Centrino Timed With Windows 7

Intel Centrino and Windows 7
Intel plans to release its sixth generation of the popular mobile platform known as Centrino just in time for the October release of Windows 7.

The platform, codenamed "Calpella," will be the launch of Intel's Nehalem architecture on laptops.

An Intel spokesperson declined to comment, but a source familiar with the plans confirmed that Intel will have Calpella-based products in stores for Windows 7's launch on Oct. 22.

Intel tends to update the Centrino line about once a year. It introduced the previous generation, Montevina, last July.

Calpella is believed to come in multiple forms, for regular and ultra-low voltage (ULV) laptops. The ULV designs will use 32 nanometer design, which Intel (NASDAQ: INTC) is currently ramping up now. The first Calpella products due in October will use the current 45nm design.

Because they are based on the Nehalem architecture, Capella will abandon the northbridge and southbridge chipset arrangement used in older products. Features like the memory controller will be integrated onto the CPU, and Intel will add support for the lower-voltage DDR3 memory.

A single integrated chipset, codenamed "Ibex Peak-M," will handle features not integrated into the processor. This includes wireless networking up to 802.11n and/or WiMax and graphics. Calpella will support high-definition video playback and a DisplayPort interface.

The Calpella platform will use Intel's "Clarksfield" processor, a four-core Nehalem with two threads per core. For the more mainstream market, there will be the "Arrandale" processor, which has two cores and two threads per core.

That's a lot of power in a mobile form factor," said Jim McGregor, chief technology strategist with In-Stat. "Will it get customers buying? Yes and no."

"You have to understand why people would upgrade," he said. "Unless you are in a performance-sensitive industry, like video editing, you don't upgrade based on CPU and GPU performance any more. We've exceeded in many cases the need of the average consumer. They will upgrade as their devices get older and slower."

That said, he still believes there will be some demand thanks to Microsoft's (NASDAQ: MSFT) upcoming Windows release.

"I think Windows 7 has created the buzz, the expectations are higher, the reviews are good. I think that, combined with the latest platforms, will help drive some of the pent-up demand, but in the end it still relies on consumer sentiment on our economy."

McGregor also said that the having Nehalem on laptops will bring a notable performance gain over older generations.

"There are some significant benefits to this," he added. "No matter what, just from the architectural enhancements, you will see a benefit. You always get improvements from things like process tech and die shrinkage, but in this one you have significant changes in architecture and more than anything that really adds to the equation."

Calpella and Intel's 32nm process plans will be discussed in detail at the upcoming Intel Developer Forum, which is slated to take place Sept. 22-24 in San Francisco.

Update corrects the codenames for the platform's processors.