Intel Developer Forum: Spotlight shines on mobile PCs and handheld devices

The Intel Developer Forum, which begins today (Monday), will focus on notebooks and emerging mobile devices rather than desktop...

The Intel Developer Forum, which begins today (Monday), will focus on notebooks and emerging mobile devices rather than desktop PC processors.

The show will highlight Intel's developments in chips for embedded and wireless handheld devices, with the company revealing new capabilities of chips based on its XScale technology, an architecture for mobile devices based on core technology from ARM.

Intel has been focusing on the mobile market, which is growing far faster than the desktop market, but still represents less than 10% of the chip manufacturer's second quarter sales of £4bn.

Intel has already announced a partnership with Philips Electronics to develop a new generation of consumer electronics devices that use Intel's XScale processors. Intel's PXA250 processors will be also used in a combination mobile phone/PDA device with a retractable keyboard from Bsquare.

Other announcements of handheld and consumer electronics devices with XScale processors are expected at the show.

"Mobile data access is going to be a key trend for this decade, and Intel wants to be a big part of it," said Kevin Krewell of market research company MDR.

Some details of Banias, Intel's latest chip for notebook computers, have already been released, but the company will provide more information at the convention. Further information on the forthcoming 3.0GHz Pentium 4 processor for desktop PCs is also expected at the show, according to Intel.

Banias is Intel's project to develop a processor optimised for a mobile environment "from the ground up", said Frank Spindler, vice-president of the Intel corporate technology group.

Rather than just tweaking existing desktop processors to perform in a mobile environment, as was done for the Pentium 4-M, Banias represents a "total systems approach" to a mobile processor, said Nathan Brookwood, principal analyst for Insight 64.

Banias will contain 802.11b technology that cuts the amount of power consumed by a processor during wireless transactions, said Brookwood. This lengthens battery life, and also allows Banias to be used in extremely thin and light notebooks, he said.

Designers of mobile processors have always been concerned with keeping power consumption and heat dissipation low to avoid the types of problems experienced recently by some notebooks from Toshiba. A group of users recently filed a legal claim against Toshiba alleging the notebook manufacturer did not adequately address the design needs of desktop processors in mobile environments, which led to Toshiba's Satellite 5005 series notebooks overheating and shutting down without warning.

Initial clock speeds for Banias are expected to be around 1.6GHz or 1.7GHz, which will require a different marketing strategy from Intel, one that focuses on overall performance instead of exclusively on speed, Brookwood said.

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