Shrinking devices key to Intel WiMax vision

Intel's Ultra Mobile device platform is a key to the success of WiMax, a company executive said.

Intel's Ultra Mobile device platform will get smaller and less power-hungry over the next few years, becoming a key component in the company's vision of a personal wireless Internet available everywhere, according to a company executive.

What was introduced last year as the Ultra Mobile Personal Computer (UMPC) platform will expand into a wide variety of devices in the next few years, senior vice-president and general manager of Intel's Ultra Mobility Group. At the annual Wireless Communications Alliance Symposium, he showed off the EO, a UMPC by TabletKiosk, and said he looked forward to full Web access on pocket-sized devices within 18 months.

The company would give more details on its UMPC plans at the Intel Developer Forum in April, he said.

WiMax, the standards-based wide-area wireless technology that was now becoming mobile, would be the other key tool in giving users full-time access to the Web and other rich Internet-based applications, Chandrasekher said. WiMax was designed to deliver more than 1Mbps to a device over a range of a mile or kilometers or more. Intel will offer a combination of WiMax and Wi-Fi in add-on cards for PCs first and plans to have it in chipsets for PCs and Ultra Mobile devices in 2008.

At the same time, Ultra Mobile devices will get smaller. In the first half of this year, there will be Ultra Mobile devices that are one-quarter the size of the current architecture and use half the power. Next year, the Ultra Mobile platform would be one-seventh the size of current devices and use one-tenth the power, he said.

Intel has often compared Wi-Fi to WiMax, and Chandrasekher said the company aimed, in time, to reach the same attach rate for WiMax on notebooks as Wi-Fi had today -- more than 90 per cent.

"We have tremendous momentum," Chandrasekher said.

The linchpin was Sprint Nextel's planned mobile WiMax deployment, set to start late this year and reach 100 million US residents next year, he said. Intel expected at least four other large commercial deployments of mobile WiMax in the world this year, serving more than 20 million subscribers. The fixed form of WiMax already had more than 40 commercial deployments.

The Apple iPhone introduced last week was a good example of what Intel meant by the mobile personal Internet, Chandrasekher said. Similar to Apple's demonstration last week, he showed a version of the New York Times Web page that let him zoom in to view text on the Tablet Kiosk device's 17.5cm screen.

WiMax's future depended partly on how quickly the WiMax Forum got going on a second wave of product certification for mobile WiMax, said Adlane Fellah, an analyst at Maravedis, a broadband research company in Montreal.

That wave would look at products using multiple antennas, which was the target technology for most vendors, he said.

Fellah's vision for WiMax adoption appears more conservative than Intel's: He thinks Sprint Nextel will probably have between 10 million and 15 million paying subscribers by 2010. But he claims Sprint will count that as a success, and that mobile WiMax as a whole will succeed in many locations around the world.

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Stephen Lawson

IDG News Service

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