Canadian Centrino adopters make their move

George Atis didn’t want wires when he came to Canada.

Shortly after joining the Toronto office of the law firm McMillan Binch in June 2001, Atis marched straight to the management team and told them they needed to introduce WiFi, the technology

that allows the creation of wireless networks within a 300 m radius. This was something Atis, now a senior partner at McMillan Binch, was already used to at his former home and office in California, he told the senior executives.

“”They said, ‘Then, you should go back to back to California,”” said Atis. “”They didn’t want to be on the bleeding edge.””

The attitudes at MacMillan Binch are the primary hurdle for Intel following the launch Wednesday of Centrino, a group of chips developed specifically for wireless computing. Centrino, which includes a microprocessor called Pentium-M, a chipset and a WiFi module, represents the processor company’s quest to dominate the emerging market for WiFi, which is also making itself manifest in common public areas called “”hot spots.”” Notebook manufacturers such as IBM, HP and Dell all launched devices Wednesday that include at least some parts of the Centrino bundle.

Intel employed its lab in Israel to develop Centrino from scratch, focusing primarily on a processor platform that will conserve energy and battery life. Part of this is achieved through what Intel calls Micro Ops Fusion, which makes the chip perform common computing tasks at the same time. Advanced Batch Prediction, meanwhile, tries to second-guess what the laptop will ask the chip to do, similar to the way a word-processing application finishes a common word as the user begins typing it. The Centrino “”bus”” — the part that transmits data from one part of the computer to the other — will shut down when it’s not needed, as will other parts of the chip, further reducing power.

Intel said these features could extend the battery life of a Centrino-based notebook to five hours from the usual two hours.

“”Even if a business traveller, for example, could get one hour more of productivity on a plane trip, that would go towards the return on investment for the device,”” said Intel’s Canadian country manager, Doug Cooper.

The power savings lower Centrino’s overall speed, however, to 1.6 GHz compared to the 2.4 GHz Pentium 4.

Fairmont Hotels and Resorts, which hosted the Canadian Centrino launch at Toronto’s Royal York Hotel, is one of the enterprises setting up hot spots to attract business users. The installation of access points will allow guests to wirelessly connect to the Internet in hotel lobbies, restaurants and conference rooms. Fairmont introduced high-speed Internet access to 19,000 rooms in its hotels two years ago.

Timothy Aubrey, Fairmont’s vice-presiden

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