IDF - Games, music, and future PCs grace show floor

Most attendees at the Intel Developer Forum came to learn about new Intel Corp. technologies and how they can be used to build products. But they found time to play a video game or two just off the conference show floor, and could also view reference designs talked about in keynote speeches this week by Intel executives.

A sampling of some of the products on display:

-- Outside the large keynote room, Intel and Hewlett-Packard Co. lined up 10 mock Formula 1 racing cars in which attendees could sit and play Electronic Arts Inc.'s F1 2001 racing game. Each car was hooked up to a Compaq Presario PC, and to complete the illusion the cars had working pedals for the accelerator and brake and a steering wheel. The Presarios were powered by 2.2GHz Pentium 4 processors and Nvidia Corp.'s GeForce4 graphics card.

-- On the main show floor, Intel displayed several preproduction notebooks featuring its Centrino technology, which combines the Pentium-M processor with a chip for wireless Internet access. Toshiba Corp., Gateway Inc., Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd., First International Computer Inc., and Asustech Computer Inc. showed off notebooks that will be ready for Centrino's March 12 launch. Intel has said it expects the Pentium-M to be used in thin and light notebooks, but most of the notebooks on display were of the larger, desktop replacement variety.

-- Intel discussed several reference designs for future desktop PCs this week, and displayed three of those at its own booth. The Powersville and Statesboro reference designs are meant to provide system builders with a blueprint to create media devices that will serve content around the home. The Marble Falls design is meant for business users, with two flat-screen displays and a small chassis. For Marble Falls, Intel used a motherboard design with the CPU at the front of the system, allowing air to flow in the front and out the back, helping to cool the processor.

-- Linksys Group Inc. has developed a wireless digital media adapter for home entertainment networks based on a reference design unveiled at last September's Fall IDF. It uses the 802.11b standard to connect a PC with home entertainment devices such as televisions and stereos, allowing users to view a digital picture library stored on their PCs hard drive on their television. The device is expected to be available in the U.S. in two months, with worldwide availability to follow, according to a Linksys representative at the company's booth.

-- Hitachi Ltd. showed off its liquid cooling technology for desktops and notebooks. As processor performance increases, heat naturally follows suit. Serious gamers and other high-tech enthusiasts have long turned to liquid cooling as a solution, but Hitachi is trying to make that technology mainstream. In the notebook, a plastic panel separates the LCD (liquid crystal display) from the cooling technology, which is tucked behind the screen. A glycol-based liquid flows around the processor through a network of tubes, pumps, and radiators that weighs less than one pound (.45 kilograms). The technology is currently available only in Japan, but Hitachi will probably license the design to other equipment manufacturers, said a Hitachi representative at the company's booth.

-- A Gibson Guitar Corp. executive joined Intel rival Advanced Micro Devices Inc. on stage at Comdex last November, but Gibson is also showing off its digital guitar at the Spring IDF. Gibson has installed an Ethernet input jack on its famous Les Paul guitar that allows players to connect their instruments directly to a PC to record their music. The company has also redesigned the internal wiring of its electric guitars to allow players to adjust the sound of the guitar string by string, creating a number of new sonic possibilities. Conference attendees could register to win one of the guitars at Intel's conference party Thursday evening at the San Jose Tech Museum of Innovation, where former Journey lead guitarist Neal Schon will play with other Gibson musicians in a jam session with conference attendees.

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