Intel Exec Points Up Quirks In the Mobile Market

Intel has a lot going on, much of which is widely understood and some of which is not. For a few interesting sidelights, consider a presentation in Taiwan last week by Mooly Eden, vice president and general manager of the chip maker’s mobile platforms group.
Eden, known for a quirky Israeli accent and a trademark black hat, was one several senior execs who talked up Intel’s momentum in mobile computing at the Computex trade show. It was a bit of a victory party; last year’s event kicked off a major push behind low-end laptops called netbooks–nearly all powered by an Intel chip called Atom–that became a groundswell.

This time Eden focused much of his talk on new low-power chips that could help slash the price of sleek, ultra-thin laptops that often cost more than $1,500. He predicted that more than 20% of laptops on store shelves by the end of the year will be in the ultra-thin category, with new mass-market price points.

Intel made a surprising branding decision for the one new chip in this push, aimed at ultra-thin machines priced around $600 to $700. It’s not called Atom (a name reserved for netbooks and other unconventional devices), or Core 2 (its high-end laptop line), or Celeron (a brand long associated with budget systems). Intel is calling it a Pentium, a once-ubiquitous brand many people thought had been consigned to history.

But the new Pentium SU2700 did not appear in a press release describing the effort, and is not included on Intel’s price list. A company spokesman says such “off roadmap” chips appear from time to time, and often are the result of suggestions by computer makers.

Another hot topic is what alternatives to Microsoft’s Windows software might emerge for netbooks. Intel has developed a Linux variant called Moblin for such hardware, an alternative that is sometimes viewed as a rival to Google’s Android software. But Eden, for the first time in public, briefly showed a layer of Android software running on top of Moblin–an indication that the two products might be complementary. (Intel raised the ante in such software battles last week with a deal to buy Wind River Systems, a software vendor aligned with Android).

Eden also gave new details of a design philosophy driving Intel’s efforts to reduce power consumption. Where cars seem to consume more fuel at high speeds, chips can apparently do the opposite; Intel’s new technology is designed to complete certain jobs faster and then switch off the relevant circuitry. Intel identifies the concept by the acronym HUGI, which Eden said stands for “hurry up and get idle.”

Still another goal is to use wireless Wi-Fi networking in a more convenient way. Rather than always relying on a wireless router or access point as a shortstop for making Wi-Fi connections, Intel is backing software to make it easier for laptops to communicate directly with Wi-Fi-equipped cameras, electronic picture frames, printers–and even a robot that appeared on stage with Eden. The technology, first introduced earlier this year under the name MyWiFi, can allow laptops to be connected to up to eight devices, Eden said.

Besides unusual wrinkles in technology, Eden often chooses offbeat ways to get his points across. To illustrate how personal mobile technology has become for people, he asked his audience how many had cellphones. All raised their hands. Then he asked how many were married; a somewhat smaller number responded. Then Eden asked how many were happily married; most of the same hands went up.

Finally, Eden asked the people who said they are happily married whether they would hand over their own cellphone if their spouse lost his or hers. No hands went up. “That is my point,” he said. “That is personalization.”

Links to Webcasts of Computex presentations by Eden and other Intel executives can be found here.

BY Don Clark
Source:The Wall Street Journal

Copyright ©2009 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved.



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