BenQ yesterday announced plans to release three Joybook notebook PC models based on Intel's next-generation Centrino platform, code-named Sonoma, two days ahead of Intel's official introduction of the platform.

Sonoma is the second version of Intel's Centrino platform and includes new versions of the Pentium M mobile processor, a new wireless chip and a new chipset, code-named Alviso, that offers greatly improved graphics performance and support for PCI Express.

Intel is scheduled to hold press conferences in several countries tomorrow to officially introduce the Sonoma platform.

BenQ says its announcement, which was dated 17 January, was not intended to preempt Intel's own announcement of the new platform. "We were actually supposed to launch this at the same as Intel did their launch," said Albert Lin, a spokesman for BenQ, describing the early release of the statement as a mix-up.

According to the BenQ announcement, the company plans to ship three notebook PCs based on Sonoma in February. The three models are the Joybook S52, Joybook S72 and Joybook A82. All three models include wide-screen displays, the company said.

The S52 is a thin-and-light design with a 13in widescreen display that is targeted at small and medium-sized businesses. The S72 is also a thin-and-light design but comes with a 14in widescreen display, a remote control that can also be used as a laser pointer, and a design that better dissipates heat generated by the computer's internal components, BenQ said.

The A82 is intended to function as a desktop replacement and offers users multimedia capabilities, BenQ said. The A82 sports 15.4in widescreen display, a remote control that can do double duty as a laser pointer, and SRS 3-D surround sound, it said.

The three Sonoma-based Joybook models will be available in China and Taiwan during February and are expected to be available in Europe before the middle of the year, Lin said. Pricing for all three models was not immediately available.

Reached for comment about BenQ's announcement, Intel spokeswoman Georgine Lin said PC vendors are bound not to disclose certain information about Intel products prior to their announcement. However, Lin had not seen the BenQ announcement and could not comment on whether it had exceeded an agreement not to disclose information related to Sonoma.

Intel had originally planned to introduce Sonoma last year but the platform was delayed because of production problems with the Alviso chipset. That delay appears to have had little impact on vendors' enthusiasm for the new platform.

Earlier this month, Intel said it expects to see PC vendors introduce around 80 Sonoma-based notebooks this month, with the total number of Sonoma-based systems to reach 150 by the end of the year. That exceeds Intel's earlier expectations, revealed in April of last year, that vendors would initially offer 50 Sonoma-based notebook PCs.