Intel boosts lead over AMD with late Centrino 2 release

Analysts say delay in shipping new laptop chip platform didn't slow Intel's momentum

Despite a month-long delay in shipping, analysts say Intel Corp.'s first quad-core laptop processor will keep the chip maker well ahead of rival Advanced Micro Devices Inc.

Intel unveiled the Centrino 2 quad-core processor, code-named Montevina, last night. The company had announced late in May that the initial shipments of the chip platform would be pushed back from June because of problems with its integrated graphics technology and a licensing misstep.

The platform released Monday includes five new Core 2 Duo processors, the new chip set, a Core 2 Extreme processor running at 3.06 GHz and wireless technology that supports WiMax and 802.11 Wi-Fi. The company said it is shooting to unveil eight more laptop-focused processors over the next three months. The upcoming hardware is expected to include Intel's first mobile quad-core products along with second-generation products for ultrathin, lightweight notebooks.

"There are some major enhancements to the platform," said Jim McGregor, an analyst at In-Stat. "Quite honestly, they've had performance leadership in this segment for quite some time, and this just builds on that. The delay is of no concern. A month is nothing. It's a slip."

While Intel was taking care of its technical and licensing issues, AMD was busy releasing its first laptop-specific processor. AMD announced the new processor -- code-named Puma -- last month at the Computex trade show in Taiwan, where Intel had initially planned to unveil Montevina. AMD had long been a wannabe in the laptop chip arena. Rather than offer laptop-specific processors, the company had initially modified desktop processors for use in mobile systems. Puma marked the first time the company took direct aim at the laptop market.

Dan Olds, an analyst at Gabriel Consulting Group Inc., said that while it was a good move for AMD to get into the laptop market, Puma isn't enough to make a huge dent in its rival's lead, despite Intel's recent shipping delay.

"With this new product and their commanding position in the market, Intel is ensured that they will get their share of sales," he said. "Intel doesn't absolutely need this upgrade in order to remain competitive. They're still ahead on almost every measure and in almost every segment."

Both analysts pointed to several advancements in Centrino 2, including a reduction in power consumption to extend notebook battery life, support for WiMax and support for integrated and discrete graphics.

McGregor said Intel's new processor platform may be strong enough to drive new laptop sales. "If people want to use their computers for entertainment or for gaming, then this is when they'll say, 'Maybe this is a good time to go out and buy.'"

"When we first introduced Intel Centrino back in 2003, there were very few Wi-Fi hot spots or YouTube videos, social media didn't really exist, thin and light only referred to weight goals, and desktop PCs outsold notebooks by a very wide margin," said Mooly Eden, general manager of Intel's Mobile Platforms Group. "Today, notebooks outsell desktops in the U.S, and we're paving the way to HD entertainment, rich online gaming, faster broadband wireless speeds and an easier and more secure way for businesses to manage, update and repair their notebook fleets."

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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