Intel Readies 1GHz Notebook Chip for Early 2001

Helped by improved power management features, the 1GHz mobile Pentium III will consume on average less than 2 watts of power, which will be little enough to provide sufficient battery life for both full-featured and lightweight notebook PCs, said Bob Jackson, principal engineer with Intel's Mobile Platforms Group.

Jackson outlined Intel's mobile processor roadmap at the Microprocessor Forum, a closely watched technical conference where the semiconductor industry lifts the lid on the latest achievements in silicon.

Also here Tuesday, Motorola said it has developed a version of its G4 desktop processor that runs at 1GHz. The G4 is used in Apple Computer's Power Macintosh computers, although it wasn't clear Tuesday if or when Apple plans to make use of the new processor.

Around the middle of next year, Intel will begin shifting the production of its chips to a more advanced, 0.13 micron manufacturing process, allowing it to ramp the speed of its mobile Pentium IIIs beyond 1GHz, Jackson said. Intel's fastest mobile Pentium III today runs at 850MHz.

Intel splits the notebook market into four segments: full-featured notebooks, thin and light notebooks, mini-notebooks, and sub-notebooks like Toshiba's hand-sized Libretto.

In the next year or two, full-featured notebooks will decline in importance to account for about 30 per cent of all portables sold, down from about 60 per cent today, Jackson said. On the rise will be thin and light notebooks, which weigh about 5 pounds and typically omit a floppy drive or optical drive to reduce their bulk.

Sales of mini-notebooks, meanwhile, which typically have smaller keyboards and weigh 2 to 3 pounds, may grow to account for as much as 10 per cent of portables sold. Sub-notebooks like the Libretto will occupy perhaps one per cent of the market, he estimated.

"Intel's goal is to provide the highest performance and best battery life in each segment," Jackson said.

While the 1GHz mobile Pentium III will be suitable for use in both full-featured and thin and light notebooks, the low-power requirements for the smaller mini-notebook and sub-notebook classes are more stringent.

Intel expects to introduce new power management features in the first half of 2001 that will allow it to offer a 700MHz version of the Pentium III for use in mini-notebooks. For sub-notebooks, Intel expects to offer a 500MHz mobile Pentium III in the first half of next year, increasing to 600MHz by mid-year, Jackson said.

While it grapples with the sometimes unpredictable changes in the mobile market, Intel faces a new challenge in the form of Transmeta, a start-up that has made waves in the chip industry since unveiling its low-power Crusoe processors earlier this year.

Intel officials sought to down play the threat from Crusoe on Tuesday, saying that performance benchmarks for the chips have yet to be published.

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James Niccolai

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