Intel Launches Fifth-Generation Centrino

Mooly Eden

Intel’s Mooly Eden in May.

Source: Intel

SAN FRANCISCO — Intel (NASDAQ: INTC) on Monday officially launched the fifth generation of its Centrino mobile platform in as many years. Code-named “Montevina,” again drawing its code name from the northern California region, the new platform is long on support for digital media while using less power than previous generations.

Mooly Eden, the vice president and general manager of the mobile platforms group at Intel (at left), was more stand-up comedian than host of the launch, with everything from take-my-wife jokes to a faked blue screen of death crash during his demo.

Montevina comes just 14 months after the release of Santa Rosa but will offer some big jumps in performance and power savings. It offers 23 percent better CPU performance thanks to a newer Core 2 Duo processor and 1.7 times the graphics performance, according to Eden, while using 27 percent less power. For networking, it will offer 802.11 b/g/n and WiMAX support.

While Intel launched Centrino in 2003, it started to design the platform in 1999. Back then, according to IDC numbers, laptops were around 19 percent of the market to the 81 percent for desktops. But Intel saw the future, because it was making it.

“There is only one way to predict the future: Create it,” Eden said. “When we first created Centrino, if we asked people if they wanted wireless, they would say ‘Why?’ In 2003 if we told them Wi-Fi would be everywhere, in the hotel, in the airport, they would laugh at you.”

From that 81/19 split in 1999, laptops are now 48 percent of the market compared with 52 percent for desktops, according to IDC, which predicts a crossing over to a laptop majority next year. Intel expects it this year, from a supply side. At retail, mobile is already 60 to 65 percent of the market.

Montevina is built on dual-core processors, but Eden announced last night that Intel will release its first quad-core laptop processor later this quarter. “You will have more power in a laptop than we had in servers just a few years ago,” he said.

Montevina notebooks are being announced today from major OEM vendors.

Switchable graphics

Montevina has switchable graphics, both discrete and integrated, built into the motherboard. Some people want battery life, so they can use the lower-power integrated graphics. If users want gaming-quality graphics, they can switch on the fly to discrete graphics and use the GPU from nVidia or AMD for game-quality performance.

IDC analyst Shane Rau said that even with the frequent updates to the platform, they add up over time. “With each of these new intros, they make incremental improvements on the prior version,” he told “Each one is important for its own reasons, because it sends a signal the market is advancing and continuing to adapt to customer needs.”

Extreme overclocking

Eden also announced the Extreme Mobile X9100 processor, a 3.06GHz dual-core model that can be overclocked by hobbyists who love to tinker with their PC’s performance. It will feature advanced software features for tuning performance and come with a more mobile-friendly thermal power layer.

Stating “the world has gone digital,” Eden showed off the Blu-ray playback support and the High-Definition Multimedia Interface, or HDMI , video output to stream digital content to the TV. “We believe this will be the center of your digital content,” he said.

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