Intel charts course to WiMax system-on-a-chip

SAN FRANCISCO — The release of its first dual-core processors for servers and desktops is months away, but Intel is already preparing to bring the one-two punch approach to its Centrino line of mobile chips as well.

Executives told the Intel Developer Forum in early September that Intel’s next

Centrino bundle, code-named Sonoma, will be followed by a platform code-named “”Napa”” that will include a dual-core mobile processor called “”Yonah”” based on its 65-nanometer process technology. The platform will also include a new integrated graphics chipset code-named “”Calistoga,”” and next generation Intel wireless solution code-named “”Golan.””

Anad Chandrasekher, vice-president of Intel’s mobile platforms group, said the dual-core Yonah would include multi-threading capabilities that could help solve several key problems in the digital office. Geographically dispersed teams, for example, could make use of Yonah to run conferencing applications along with sophisticated analytics software from various locations. Consumers, meanwhile, could use the chip to play a game on their laptop while simultaneously downloading music files.

Dual-core mobile chips would be welcomed by Flick Software, a Canadian developer based in Ottawa. Flick offers a product called the Mobile Interactive Guide, which is used to create multimedia experiences on handhelds for clients such as the Canadian Museum of Civilization. Paul Bennett, Flick’s director of handheld solutions, did not attend IDF, but via telephone said the additional horsepower Yonah promises would go over well with his users.

“”Whenever you’re dealing with multimedia you’ve got a lot of data to move around,”” he said, adding that increasing screen sizes on mobile products means more pixels to display, which also takes up computing power. “”You can deal with that through a graphics chip or with an advanced CPU.””

Yonah doesn’t have a launch date, but its predecessor, Sonoma, should be available in the first quarter of next year, Chandrasekher said. Sonoma’s key selling feature will be a hands-free virtual private network capability, which was jointly developed with Cisco, CheckPoint and Nortel Networks.

This year’s IDF featured a focus on WiMax, an emerging wireless standard that promises to provide broadband connectivity at DSL speeds across long distances. In his keynote speech, Intel president Paul Ottelini unveiled “”Rosedale,”” the company’s first “”system-on-a-chip”” design for cost-effective customer premise equipment (CPE) supporting the IEEE 802.16-2004 WiMax specification.

Howard Bubb, vice-president and general manager of Intel’s Communications Infrastructure Group, said the chipmaker will be bringing out WiMax multimedia instructions within the next two years, and products that would offer an integrated connection between two WiMax flavours, 802.16d and 802.16e.

Bennett said companies such as Flick, which also has clients with outdoor exhibits, could benefit from WiMax’s potential.

“”We’re not quite sure yet how we’re going to apply it,”” he said, “”but the improved distances could mean fewer access points.””

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