Software support drives PC upgrades

Intel is counting on Microsoft pulling support for older operating systems and companies renewing their legacy computers to drive...

Intel is counting on Microsoft pulling support for older operating systems and companies renewing their legacy computers to drive demand for new PC technology, writes Cliff Saran.

During his keynote presentation at the Intel Developers' Forum in San Jose, Intel chairman Craig Barrett introduced Newport, Intel's new mobile processor, and discussed how legacy PC renewal would allow new Intel-based technologies to be adopted by businesses.

Intel estimates that there are as many as 180 million old PCs in existence running unsupported operating systems software. Barrett said, "User upgrades are being driven by a whole series of events, including non-support of older operating systems by Microsoft and inefficiencies within older PCs."


Intel described Newport as the next generation of desktop for the knowledge worker in 2004. The basic idea is a wireless network-enabled mobile PC equipped with a wireless keyboard.

In a demonstration, Intel showed how such a device could be used in a conferencing environment. The scenario was a remote conference environment. When a user entered the conference room, the Newport device was made aware of services available within the conference room such as connectivity to AV equipment and videoconferencing. These services were then presented via a menu-driven user-interface. Options were selected using the wireless keyboard.

The Newport device would also be equipped with mobile networking software that automatically detected the best type of network available for communications. For instance, in the absence of a fixed network, it could be configured to switch automatically to a wireless Lan or, failing that, a GPRS/3G connection.

Bluetooth aware

Intel also showed how Bluetooth wireless connectivity could be used to provide a remote control for a notebook PC. Using a Sony Ericsson T68i Bluetooth-equipped mobile phone, Intel demonstrated how a user would be able to access Outlook contacts, calendar and e-mail direct from the phone, without having to open up the notebook PC. The phone could also be used to control a Powerpoint presentation.

From the labs

The theme of this year's conference was computing and communications convergence. Barrett said Intel was developing new ways to integrate more functions onto silicon chips. Going forward, he said, this integration will bring benefits to the end-user in terms of performance, power consumption and cost through economies of scale.

One example of integration is the Manitoba chip announced at the 3GSM World Congress in Cannes. Designed for cellphones, the chip integrates an Xscale processor, 4Mbytes of memory and a radio onto a single chip.

Another example from the labs is research Intel is conducting into silicon photonics, where fibre optic and silicon technology are available on a single chip. In what is believed to be a world first, Intel showed how such a chip could be used to transmit data over a 5km fibre optic cable using a single silicon chip to perform both the optical and electronic aspects of processing the data transmission.

In the future, Intel believes such technology could dramatically lower the cost of optical switching devices because manufacturing in silicon would benefit from economies of scale.

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