Intel, BMW show tomorrow's 'mobile office'

Forget working from home; not long from now you could be running a business from the back of your car.

Intel and BMW drove a prototype BMW 7 Series, which doubles as a mobile office, to the Cebit trade show in Hanover, Germany. The computing power comes from a Tablet PC fitted into the armrest on the back seat, along with a Bluetooth-enabled printer and fax machine.

For wireless connectivity the car has a WLAN (wireless LAN) access point which connects to the outside world over GPRS (General Packet Radio Services) and UMTS (Universal Mobile Telecommunications System) third-generation telephone networks, which support wireless data services.

"It's just a prototype, so don't go asking BMW for one just yet ... but the automotive industry is working on these type of advances," said Christian Morales, general manager of Intel's Europe, Middle East and Africa operations. An Intel representative here couldn't immediately say when the vehicle might go on sale.

Aside from the car, Intel's presence at Cebit this year has a heavy consumer focus. At a press conference Thursday, the company showed a variety of home PCs and "entertainment PCs," which resemble DVD players and can connect to a PC to shuttle movies to wireless screens around the home. One of the DVD-like systems was a reference design built by Taiwan's First International Computer.

Intel also squeezed out a new chip set for consumer PCs code named Alderwood, a complement to the Grantsdale chip set unveiled earlier this year. Both are designed to improve the playback of video and other motion graphics on home PCs.

Grantsdale includes an integrated graphics chip and supports the zippy PCI (Peripheral Component Interconnect) Express interconnect and DDR2 memory technologies. Alderwood will also support PCI Express and DDR2 but is for systems with a separate graphics chip. Both are due out by the middle of this year, said Kevin Corbett, vice president and chief technology officer for Intel's Desktop Platforms Group

As part of its effort to boost digital technologies for the home, Intel representatives met with 200 venture capitalists in San Francisco Wednesday to encourage them to invest in companies developing products for that area. Intel is also talking to Hollywood movie studios to figure out business models that will allow customers to download new movies at home at the same time they are released in theatres, Corbett said. There was no word this week when that may occur.

By promoting such digital multimedia services for the home, Intel hopes to sell more of its newer, high-performance chips.

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James Niccolai

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