Intel plans to go to extremes to protect its lucrative mobile processor business from competitors - extremes that include high-performance 1GHz mobile processors and ultralow-power CPUs that promote longer battery life.
At the MicroProcessor Forum in San Jose this week Intel executives demonstrated a 1GHz mobile Pentium III processor and an ultralow-voltage mobile PIII.
They also discussed the emerging mobile markets, the company's plans to serve those markets, and its upstart rival Transmeta.
Intel expects four mobile processor segments: full-size, thin and light, mininotebook, and subnotebook, said Bob Jackson, principal engineer for the Mobile Platform Group. The company intends to offer products based on a single platform for each category.
In the first half of 2001, Intel expects to launch its first 1GHz Pentium III processor designed for full-size notebooks, Jackson said. Intel demonstrated the part, running only on an open motherboard without a notebook.
Also next year, Intel will probably announce an ultralow-voltage 500MHz chip for subnotebooks that should be extremely battery-friendly.
The company demonstrated a processor running at 300MHz.
Desktop-replacement notebooks with fast processors and less-restrictive power requirements now rule the market, Jackson said.
Going forward, thinner and lighter notebooks that weigh around 1.80kg and require more careful use of power will come to dominate, Intel expects.
Right now, that means a variety of processors at varying speeds and voltage levels. They're coupled with technologies such as SpeedStep (which revs the processor to maximum speed when using AC power, and bumps it down to a lower speed when using battery power).
Also of importance is Intel's QuickStart technology, which drops CPU power consumption when the chip is inactive.
Going forward, Intel is moving to a more efficient chip design, from a .18 micron process to a .13 micron process, Jackson said.
Other improvements in the works are a function that will let a processor go into a "deeper sleep" to more efficiently conserve power.
Lower power consumption and improved battery life is an area where newcomer Transmeta and its Crusoe processor with LongRun technology hope to make a mark.
Intel's Frank Spindler, general manager of the mobile platform group, made his feelings clear about the much-anticipated battle between Intel and Transmeta.
"It's important to realise that we believe our performance is superior," he said. Of course, there are still no Transmeta systems to test, so Intel can't yet prove that, he said.