Worldwide notebook demand has proven so strong that Intel now sees shipments reaching between 28 million and 30 million units this year, said Don MacDonald, director of mobile platform group marketing at Intel.
Citing an earlier forecast of 23 million units by analyst firm IDC, MacDonald said market researchers had underestimated demand.
As the world's largest supplier of the processors found in both notebook and desktop PCs, Intel is well-positioned to see where the market is headed.
"We know how many chips are shipping," MacDonald said, in a presentation at Mobile Insights's Go Mobile conference, which ended here on Tuesday.
Within the next year, Intel expects to almost double the clock speed of its fastest processor for use in notebooks. MacDonald said that over the coming year processors will reach speeds of more than 1GHz and maybe as high as 1.4GHz. Intel's current top-of-the-line notebook processor is a mobile 750MHz Pentium III.
Ultraportables and so-called thin-and-light notebook form factors are proving increasingly popular with users, noted MacDonald. By 2004, such form factors could make up as much as 75 percent of total shipments, up from 30 percent today.
Currently, however, full-featured notebooks that effectively can be used to replace desktop PCs make up the bulk of shipments, said Theresa Nozick, an analyst at California-based Mobile Insights. "This is the most popular form factor across the board with both business users and consumers," she said, in a separate presentation.
Users' demands, however, are changing.
"The internet is driving demand and therefore defining mobility," said Intel's MacDonald, a situation which means that enabling wireless access will be critical to meet the demand for "anytime, anywhere" communications.
Meeting the often conflicting demands of users will not be easy, however. Users demand smaller and lighter devices with longer battery life. At the same time, they also want bigger screens and power-hungry features such as DVD (digital versatile disc) drives, noted MacDonald.
Providing additional security features will also become a key element of supporting increasingly mobile workers.
"Mobility brings freedom, but it also brings risk," MacDonald said.
By late this year or early 2001, Intel plans to roll out its Protected Access Architecture, a set of measures currently under development which will offer better data and access security for notebooks, he said. The goal of the program is to make stolen or lost notebooks as valuable as a brick, MacDonald added.
The chip maker is looking at a wide range of security technologies, including biometrics and smart card solutions, he said.
Noting that wireless advances soon also will enable notebooks to interact with other devices, MacDonald suggested that it is feasible that cellular phones could one day be used as tokens for access to notebooks.