New Centrino chip to feature city-wide wireless
Intel, the worlds biggest PC chip maker, has launched the next-generation of its Centrino wireless chips for use in laptop computers and other non-PC devices.
The chips combine Wi-Fi capability with a newer wireless technology called WiMax, which allows for high-speed data transmission over much bigger distances, such as across entire cities. The WiMax-enabled version of the chips should be available later this year.
The launch of the Centrino 2 chip, previously code named Montevina, came after a delay of several months and was decidedly lower key than the launch of the first Centrino chips in 2003.
Evolution not revolution
The Centrino 2 launch is part of this broader strategy to develop a wider suite of wireless products for use in non-PC devices, such as cellphones, as data transmission speeds improve with new mobile technologies.
Such technologies allow for a much wider range of applications, such as streaming video and video downloads, that would have been impossible using older technology.
“Because this chip has new capabilities, we hope it will change the way people think of mobile computing,” said Stanley Huang, director of advanced technical sales and services for Intel Asia Pacific, at a launch event in Taipei.
But analysts say the launch represents a relatively modest step forward. Bryan Ma, an industry analyst from the data-tracking company IDC based in Singapore, says the new chips represent a more incremental development for the industry, compared with the first Centrino that marked Intels entry to the wireless space.
“My big question is whether this is revolutionary or evolutionary; I suspect it may be more of the latter,” Ma says. “Even if its just evolutionary, however, it is still a good fuel to help the industry along.”
WiMax could replace conventional Wi-Fi networks because users can remain connected at speeds of up to 75 megabits per second over distances up to 10 kilometres. By contrast, conventional Wi-Fi operates over distances of only a few tens of metres.
Because of this ability to blanket entire cities, WiMax is also touted as a potential rival to 3G cellphone networks. However, critics point out that users would have to share the WiMax connection and this could dramatically reduce download speeds to around 512 kilobits per second, about the same as is possible with 3G.
WiMax services are already available in parts of Germany, France and Spain, while Taiwan is currently in the process of constructing six WiMax wireless networks.
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