Intel does Dothan

Intel kicked its mobile computing strategy into high gear Monday with notebook chips produced on 90 nm process technology and featuring a naming system that avoids the traditional focus on clock speeds.

The Santa Clara, Calif.-based

chipmaker introduced three models of its latest Pentium M processor, code-named Dothan, running from 1.8 GHz to 2 GHz, but Intel will spend use its marketing muscle in this launch to focus attention on architectural enhancements that drive better performance. These include 2MB of integrated, power-managed L2 cache as well as Intel’s first use of strained silicon, which also gives the chips a speed boost.

Intel said earlier this year the Dothan series — part of its Centrino collection of processors, chip sets and WiFI module — would be the first to use a naming system that reflects the more sophisticated ways it tries to enhance its products’ capabilities. Monday’s launch, for example, referred to the Pentium M 735, 745 and 755, while forthcoming Pentium 4 chips will be numbered in the 500 range and value-priced Celerons numbered in the 300 range.

Doug Cooper, Intel of Canada’s country manager, said the company would be working with its retail partners to help them educate consumers about the naming convention and to look past gigahertz to get a more complete picture of system speed.

“”In the enterprise, the model number is not as critical because the IT manager is well versed in all the things that drive performance,”” he said. “”In some cases, we’re hearing that battery life can be as important as speed.””

Intel’s design team has adopted a philosophy that no innovation can be introduced to its processor lineup that reduces battery life, Cooper added.

HP, IBM and several other vendors released additions to their notebook lines in conjunction with the Dothan launch. Dan Reio, HP Canada’s product manager for corporate notebooks and tablet PCs, said it was too early to tell how the naming convention would affect sales. “”You won’t see a gigahertz attached to them,”” he said of the five Dothan-based models HP released Monday. “”It’s certainly a departure from history.””

Farokh Monajem, service manager at Toronto-based Notebook Depot, said the channel is bracing itself for the customer education process.

“”It’s definitely going to be challenging, because now you’re going to have to turn around and introduce a whole new language,”” he said.

Cooper said Intel’s long-term plan is to focus on technology improvements that address critical user needs. The company’s “”occasionally connected computing”” initiative, for example, will keep applications working even when there is no network connection. Cooper quoted Gartner research that says some enterprise users spend at least one day a week out of the office, and will probably be roaming from one WiFi hotspot to another.

“”Business people don’t sit still,”” he said. “”They get up and leave the coffee shop and then they realize they have to find that guy’s phone number again, and so they need to get back into that application.””

According to the NPD Group, nearly 40 per cent of PC notebooks purchased by Canadian businesses last year featured Centrino technology, but Monajem said the impact was not as large as Intel may think.

“”I don’t think you can actually turn around and say if Centrno hadn’t come out, sales would be half of what they are now,”” he said.

Dothan also marks Intel’s first use of a 90 nm fabrication process that will yield smaller transistors and double the capacity thanks to 300 mm wafers, Cooper said. Production problems pushed back the Dothan launch from February.


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