Intel to launch new Centrino platform without HSDPA

Intel said Wednesday it cancelled plans to provide HSDPA wireless access in its Santa Rose Centrino platform for notebook PCs

Just weeks before launching its new Centrino notebook platform, Intel has cancelled plans to provide wireless access with an High Speed Downlink Packet Access (HSDPA) module built by Nokia.

Instead, the next-generation Centrino Duo platform, code-named Santa Rosa, will rely solely on Wi-Fi technology to give mobile PC users wireless Internet access. Intel plans to launch the platform in the second quarter of 2007.

Intel had first announced the partnership in September, saying the Nokia module would be an ingredient in its improved Centrino Duo platform, a recipe for wireless-enabled notebooks with long battery life centered around Intel's Core 2 Duo processor.

But Intel has now decided that notebook vendors would not be willing to pay enough to justify the investment.

"After doing further analysis, we decided it wasn't a good enough return on investment to bring that product to the notebook market now. But that doesn't change the value proposition of Santa Rosa at all," Intel spokeswoman, Connie Brown, said.

The company still plans to use HSDPA in future platforms.

"We will continue to look into embedding 3G capability at some time. It's certainly on the table, but we're not ready to announce anything at this time," Brown said.

In the original announcement, Intel said that adding an HSDPA module would complement its Wi-Fi component by letting notebook users gain wireless broadband connectivity through a popular international standard.

The partnership was supposed to assign Intel the tasks of platform design, software, integration and support, and sales and marketing. Nokia was to manufacture the module, as well as sharing its expertise in 3G HSDPA, connectivity products and carrier relationships.

Now, Intel will provide all notebook connectivity with its Kedron Next-Gen Wireless-N card, an embedded network adapter that uses the IEEE 802.11 Draft-N standard, as well as existing a, b, and g standards. Intel announced that card in January, ahead of the IEEE body's official adoption of the new standard.

The new wireless card will allow notebook PC users to share five times the data at twice the range of their current 802.11a/g cards, giving them far better performance with downloading music and streaming high-definition video, Intel said. Notebook vendors including Acer, AsusTek Computer, Gateway and Toshiba have already begun selling the card in PCs, while Dell and HP are expected to wait for the full Santa Rosa system.

Despite Intel's judgement about weak demand for HSDPA, the standard remains popular with cell-phone vendors. At the 3GSM trade show in Barcelona this week, Qualcomm announced plans to use HSDPA-based chips to deliver mobile television to handhelds, while Samsung said its new Ultra 12.9 slide-design cell phone would use HSDPA as part of its tri-band data scheme. And notebook users will be able to use the standard by the third quarter of 2007, according to an announcement by Sony Ericsson Mobile Communications AB on February 7 that it would use HSDPA in the PC300, a mobile broadband access card for Mac and PC laptops.

In the meantime, users could also resort to EV-DO, a slightly slower wireless standard available in notebooks from Sony, Gateway and Lenovo, a senior research analyst with IDC, Richard Shim, said.

"The ultimate fallout is that the proliferation of cellular wide area networks just took a big hit," Shim said. "When HSDPA is built into chipsets, it gets the volume of users up. But without that incentive to the carriers, it hurts the forecast for building out new networks."

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