Intel's 'Santa Rosa' laptop platform will hit the shelves in the first half of 2007, bringing improvements in processing power, battery life and wireless connectivity over the current Centrino architecture.

Intel has enjoyed strong sales with Centrino, which combines a low-wattage processor and wireless ability with an efficient chipset. Now the company will upgrade those ingredients to a more efficient version of the 'Merom' Core 2 Duo chip and 'Crestline' ICH8M chipset, together code-named Santa Rosa.

The company will also make the Santa Rosa notebooks start up faster by augmenting current memory technology with a Nand flash-based disk cache, said Dadi Perlmutter, senior vice-president and general manager of Intel's mobility group, at the Intel Developer Forum yesterday. Compared with a Centrino PC, that 'Robson' technology will allow future notebooks to load applications twice as fast and wake up from a hibernation state twice as fast.

For wireless connectivity, the new notebooks will use the pending 802.11n standard, capable of streaming data at 300Mbps (megabits per second), five times faster than the current 802.11g, Perlmutter said yesterday.

To support users until 802.11n is officially approved, Intel has arranged an interoperability program with access point vendors including Buffalo, D-Link, Linksys and Netgear. Intel will also deliver embedded 3G (third-generation) wireless WAN technology from Nokia, Perlmutter said.

In a demonstration, he played HD (high-definition) segments of a film called Spoon on a Santa Rosa platform running Microsoft's Vista OS (operating system). That level of broadband connectivity will also allow Intel to extend its new vPro business bundle to notebooks, after having launched it for desktops on 7 September.

"But the jewel of the crown for wireless connectivity is WiMax," Perlmutter said. Intel plans to deliver an integrated Wi-Fi and WiMax chip by 2008. WiMax is a metropolitan-area wireless technology designed to deliver at least 1Mbps of data and in some cases much more. The company's WiMax plan will be supported by a commitment from service providers Sprint and Clearwire to start building mobile WiMax networks in 2007 and provide commercial service by 2008.

Intel also said it would extend WiMax support to future reference designs for the handheld UMPC (ultramobile PC) platform, including a 1.2kg version for students up to university age.

Intel displayed a sample UMPC currently sold by Asus in Taiwan and said its partners would launch a US version in the first half of 2007 with an upgraded CPU and chipset.

Intel also expects vendors to begin selling a low-cost 'Classmate' notebook in developing nations in the first quarter of 2007, according to spokesman Larry Carr. Intel's reference design brings the price below $400 (about £210) by using a small Windows XP Embedded OS and flash memory instead of a hard drive, he said. The product will sell first in Mexico, Brazil, India and Nigeria.