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It wasn’t long ago that all the talk was about Banias. The once-mysterious processor designed from the ground up for mobile PCs has since been renamed Centrino and hyped as the gateway to the wireless world.

At this year’s Intel Developer Forum, president Paul Otellini dubbed Centrino—the convergence of computing and communications—as “a mainstream trend being rapidly embraced by individuals.

“Just two years after disclosing details on what was then codenamed Banias, the convergence of computing and communications has gone mainstream,” Otellini claims. “As one example, the addition of more than 76,000 wireless networking cards a day to the world’s computing infrastructure makes it clear that convergence is here to stay. And this isn’t just happening in the PC area - we’re estimating by 2010 there will be more than 2.5 billion wireless handheld devices capable of providing communications functions combined with the processing power of today’s advanced PCs.”

Post-Banias, the project codenaming department has had its work cut out. The company is currently working to complete “LaGrande”, “Tanglewood”, “Tulsa” and “Vanderpool” to name but a few. It has also singled out three specific focus areas for these technologies, namely enterprise computing, mobile Internet clients and the digital home.

Digital developments

In the digital home, developing industry specifications will be essential to sharing content across multiple devices, according to Intel’s desktop platforms group VP Louis Burns.

The first step is the completion of Digital Transmission Content Protection (DTCP) over IP, a content management technology enabling content to be shared between digital home devices over wireless networks. Co-developed by Intel, Hitachi, Toshiba, Sony and Matsushita Electric (Panasonic), the group has reached DTCP/IP revision 0.9, which it has made available at www.dtcp.com.

Intel sees the technology as “a cornerstone to expanding digital home entertainment” alongside close collaboration with content providers such as Warner Bros, Burns says.

Intel has also released a number of new products in the digital space. For the first time, Burns demonstrated a high-definition video stream running on a previously unannounced desktop processor, the Pentium 4 processor Extreme Edition 3.20 GHz, which will be targeted at high-end gamers and computing power users.

Intel is also collaborating with Gateway to make available the LCD Media Centre, an all-in-one digital entertainment device powered by a Pentium 4 with Hyperthreading technology version two. This means consumers could record their favourite TV show in the background while playing a 3D game in the foreground, Burns says.

On the PC front, Burns described a new technology available from Intel in mid-2004 that will embed wireless access point and router functionality on the PC motherboard to help minimise the need for external equipment or cables in a small home network. Intel also previewed an instant on/off technology, which allows consumers to press the “on” button and expect a PC to fire up in a few seconds. Burns said Intel plans to include this technology on platforms within the next few years.

Enterprise silicon

Intel is also boasting as many as eight new codenamed developments in the enterprise space. Senior VP Mike Fister outlined a number of future product additions, including the new Enterprise Blade Server family. This family includes the Server Compute Blade SBXL52, which provides two Xeon processors per blade with a total of 14 blades per chassis. In addition, Intel plans to release a four-way Intel Xeon processor MP-based blade (codenamed “McCarran”) later this year, Fister said.

In 2004, the company will enhance the Itanium 2 family with a larger cache processor, and refresh the versions optimised for dual processor and lower power systems. This will include the release of a multi-core Itanium processor, which is currently codenamed Tanglewood. “The Itanium processor family continues to receive broad industry support as evidenced by IBM’s preview of plans for a forthcoming 16-way Intel Itanium 2 processor-based system,” Fister explains.

The Intel Xeon processor MP family for servers with four or more processors will also be extended with a larger cache processor in the first half of 2004. The first 90-nm Xeon processor MP (codenamed “Potomac”) will follow with support from a new Intel chipset, codenamed “Twin Castle”.

Intel will also enhance its Xeon family for dual processor servers and workstations with a faster product in 2003 (codenamed “Tulsa”) and its first 90-nm enterprise processor in the first half of 2004 (codenamed “Nocona”). The company also disclosed an additional 90-nm processor (code-named “Jayhawk”) that will follow Nocona.

Additionally, Nocona will be supported by new server and workstation chipsets from Intel codenamed “Lindenhurst”, “Lindenhurst VS” and “Tumwater”. Elpida Memory, Infineon and Micron Technology all announced DDR2 modules that had successfully booted in server platforms based on the Lindenhurst chipset. “Successful system performance on this platform is a clear sign that DDR2 is well on its way to becoming a key technology for computing platforms in 2003,” Intel senior fellow Pete MacWilliams says. “I expect DDR2 technology to be the key memory architecture for several years.”

Another technology Intel plans to incorporate into future products is codenamed “Vanderpool”, and is designed to enable multiple, independent software environments in a single PC - similar to the way mainframe class systems operate.

On the more general silicon development front, Otellini unveiled LaGrande technology - a future enhancement to Intel chips that, when combined with optimised software, will protect users against software-based attacks on computer systems. The technology should be available in the next two-to-three years, Otellini said.

By 2011 the company also plans to be building semiconductors with circuitry 22-nm wide, and with transistors smaller than a single DNA molecule. As an example of Intel’s investment, Otellini made the first public presentation of an Intel silicon wafer built on the next generation 65-nm manufacturing process. “We said we’d continue to lead in microprocessor performance and we’ve done that,” Otellini says. “Intel is committed to bringing technologies to market that end-users want and can use today.”

Advancing mobility

Building on the success of Centrino, Intel has announced the first details of the next generation Pentium M processor, code-named “Dothan”. Built on 90-nm technology, Dothan uses 140 million transistors and employs a strained silicon technique to enable higher performance headroom. Dothan will also feature micro-architectural enhancements and a 2-MByte power-optimised, integrated Level 2 cache for faster memory access. Intel says it expects Dothan revenue shipments to begin in the fourth quarter of this year.

Intel’s Mobile Platforms Group VP Anand Chandrasekher also unveiled a new computing platform based on Centrino codenamed “Sonoma”. Expected to be available for the second half of 2004, Sonoma will incorporate a future Pentium M processor; integrated 802.11a/b/g wireless LAN capability, and a new chipset, code-named “Alviso”. The chipset will also include a new graphics engine and support new high-performance industry standards such as PCI Express and ExpressCard, next-generation DDR2 memory, Serial ATA, and Intel’s new Azalia audio interface.

Chandrasekher also showcased details about upcoming XScale technology-based processors for mobile phones and PDAs, which the company has codenamed “Bulverde”. A key component of the Intel Personal Client Architecture (PCA), the company’s development blueprint for designing wireless devices combining voice and Internet access, Bulverde will have several new features enabling wireless devices to capture higher quality pictures, extend battery life and deliver fast multimedia performance, Chandrasekher said. These will include Quick Capture Technology, an interface allowing imaging devices to connect to a mobile or PDA, and Wireless SpeedStep Technology, which dynamically adjusts the power and performance of the processor based on demand. Additional details surrounding Bulverde are expected to be available in the first half of 2004.

Intel also outlined a fourth development in the mobile space, a new chipset with power-saving features and high-performing integrated graphics for mobile PCs based on Intel Centrino mobile technology. The 855GME chipset utilises Display Power Saving Technology (DPST), which maintains apparent visual experience by managing display image brightness and contrast while adaptively dimming the backlight. When paired with DDR-333 memory, the chipset delivers higher integrated graphics performance over the Intel 855GM chipset and can reduce power consumption with a new graphics core that can automatically adjust frequency when switching between AC and battery power, Chandrasekher explained.

“Simultaneously, we are working with the industry to improve the measurement of display power, with the objective of further enhancing mobile power management,” he says.

Chandrasekher concluded that Intel and the industry “have delivered on the promise of mobility. More than 130 PC designs based on Intel Centrino mobile technology are expected to be available on the market by the end of this year, and Intel has verified the interoperability of Intel Centrino mobile technology with leading WLAN service providers who operate more than 20,000 hotspots worldwide,” he says. “We will build on this success and drive continued growth in wireless mobility with our leading-edge manufacturing, new products and platform innovations.”

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