Intel firmly believes that the 'mobile Internet' will be one of the dominant technology trends of 2008. Beyond notebook PCs, Intel has its eye on a new wave of Ultra Mobile Devices (UMD) and Mobile Internet Devices (MID). Apple's iPhone and Nokia's N810 web tablet are signs of pocketable gadgets to come.
Mainstream acceptance of the mobile Internet this year depends on three factors - full browser support on mobile devices, cheap and accessible 3G connectivity and extended Wi-Fi access.
Menlow in your pocket
Intel can't directly control the first of these - the full browser support. But this will undoubtedly become any mobile device's 'killer' feature. What Intel can do though, is provide Ultra Low Voltage chips that will give UMDs and MIDs the processing punch they need to act as portable computers rather than souped-up PDAs.
Intel reckons that its Menlow Ultra Mobile platform will allow desktop x86 computing to be crammed into truly pocket-sized devices for the first time. Menlow is part of Intel's low-power roadmap that started with McCaslin and will peak with the Moorestown platform (practically a system on a chip) in late 2009.
Menlow-based devices have been promised from a variety of partners, including: Aigo, Asus, BenQ, Clarion, Compal, EB, Inventec, Lenovo and Quanta.
From Wi-Fi to WiMAX
Wireless broadband connectivity is also part of Intel's UMD/MID vision. While 3G and traditional Wi-Fi are obvious inclusions, Intel is hoping that 2008 will be the year when WiMAX finally starts to fly.
WiMAX ultimately promises citywide Internet access, but the technology hasn't had the best of starts. Two of the largest advocates in the US, Sprint Nextel and Clearwire, decided to abandon plans for a joint WiMAX network last year. In the UK, an ongoing trial in Milton Keynes remains small.
Nevertheless, Intel has poured millions of dollars into WiMAX and remains committed to adding Wi-Fi/WiMAX modules to Centrino. Echo Peak is a two module solution for the forthcoming Montevina platform. Baxter Peak (a single module, two-chip solution) will replace it, probably in 2009.
Dana Point is another codename to watch out for, an Express Card WiMAX design for notebooks.
At this year's CES, Intel has set up a WiMAX-based race track to demonstrate the wide-area benefits of the technology. Two BMW F1 simulator cars have been installed at the Intel booth in the Las Vegas Convention Center (see photo). Drivers will be able to wirelessly drive remote-controlled cars on a track in the car park. Control signals and video will be streamed wirelessly over the WiMAX network.
Intel swaggers into 2008 riding high on the successful rollout of its 45nm Core 2 Penryn processor technology. CES is the perfect PR gift for Intel, enabling it to show off a parade of desktops, laptops and handhelds powered by its silicon. Video encoding demos, HD playback and high-end gaming rigs will also hammer home the advantages of having 'Intel inside'.
Intel's Paul Otellini gives the chip giant's annual CES keynote on Monday January 7th.