Wireless wares on a chip

Last June, the chip maker introduced five new mobile Pentium III processors, including a 600MHz version that the company designed to operate at only 1.1 volts while consuming less than 1 watt of average power in what Intel called the Battery Optimised Mode.

But Intel's low-watt claims were based solely on the power needs of the processor alone, and not the overall system requirements of any particular product that when totaled can run as high as 15.8 watts overall power drain, depending on manufacturer configuration, said Spindler.

Realising this, Intel decided to make a change, according to Dean McCarron, an analyst with Mercury Research.

McCarron said a re-organisation took place within Intel recently that caused the chip maker to take a look at how it was building mobile processors, and that the company decided it would stop taking desktop processor components and re-packaging them as mobile processors.

"They said we're just going to design these things from the ground up rather than taking desktop technologies and reconfiguring them into mobile," McCarron said.

Intel's June mobile chip launch included comparisons to Transmeta's Crusoe processor, which also operates on very low wattage with technologies specifically designed for mobile computing only.

"The numbers we're showing ... are in line with [Transmeta's] stated claims," Spindler said in June.

A new mobile processor core architecture from Intel generates even more comparisons.

"Intel's mobile group and Transmeta have similar goals, but their approaches are different," McCarron said, who pointed to Transmeta's use of software emulation working in conjunction with the processor hardware as the main difference in the two company's approaches.

McCarron added that Transmeta's Crusoe chip targets a small market and poses little threat to any substantial Intel market share.

However, companies like Broadcom, which designs solutions for Bluetooth connectivity and provide wireless RF data sockets for electronic data devices such as mobile phones, portable computers, and PDAs (personal digital assistants), could stand to lose market share if Intel is successful in bundling like services all onto one working mobile processor.

"That would be the same issue everyone has with integration," McCarron said. "When integration happens, stand-alone markets go away. And you may even see Broadcom partnering with Intel because when integration happens, you have people with intellectual property, and you either develop it yourself or you go out and buy it."

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