Intel shows more advanced ultraportable devices

Just two months after Intel Corp. unveiled a package of chips codenamed McCaslin for ultramobile computers, the company rolled out a prototype device running McCaslin's successor, Menlow, at Computex.

During a speech at Computex, Intel's Anand Chandrasekher showed a recently completed prototype from Finland's Elektrobit Corp. based on Menlow, which won't ship until next year. Chandrasekher is the senior vice president and general manager of Intel's ultra mobility group.

Designed by Elektrobit's team of engineers in seven weeks, the Mobile Internet Multimedia Device (MIMD) prototype has a slide-out keyboard, a 4.8-in. touch screen with a resolution of 1,024 by 600 pixels and a 3.2-megapixel camera. Instead of Windows, the MIMD uses Midinux, a Linux operating system for mobile devices from China's Red Flag Software Co.

Proposed specifications for the MIMD include Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, with the choice of adding Mobile WiMax or HSPA (High Speed Packet Access) cellular access. Other features include an integrated GPS, navigation software, a Micro USB port and a slot for a Micro SD (Secure Digital) memory card.

The MIMD is lightweight, but some reviewers said it was hot when picked up. Intel executives said power-management features in the software had not been activated in the prototype and production models will run much cooler.

MIMD wasn't the only Menlow prototype presented during Chandrasekher's speech. He also showed Compal Electronics Co.'s prototype Menlow device. Like the Elektrobit prototype, the Compal device has a slide-out keyboard and touch screen. It was also shown running Midinux.

Compal and Elektrobit don't plan on selling these devices under their own names. Elektrobit hopes to license its design to interested companies, while Compal will manufacture its device under contract for another company.

When Menlow-powered ultraportables like these become available next year, Intel expects them to have a battery life of up to six hours, nearly double the three hours of battery life typical of devices based on McCaslin.

The McCaslin package -- formerly known as the Ultra Mobile Platform 2007 -- consists of Intel's A100 or A110 processors and a chip set. These processors, formerly codenamed Steeley, are basically Celeron-M chips that Intel put into a smaller package designed for ultraportable devices.

The Silverthorne processor used in Menlow -- which will be called Ultra Mobile Platform 2008 -- is a new processor design and will be produced using the 45-nanometer process that Intel plans to bring on line later this year. The chips are small; 2,500 will be produced on a single 300-millimeter silicon wafer, Chandrasekher said, showing off a wafer he said contained Silverthorne chips as an example.

In Menlow, the Silverthorne processor will be paired with Poulsbo, a single-chip chip set that helps to further reduce the space required for a device's motherboard. McCaslin's chip set is composed of two chips.

Intel isn't the only chip maker that hopes to see demand for small, ultraportable devices take off. Taiwan's Via Technologies Inc. took the wraps off its Mobile ITX motherboard and NanoBook reference design at Computex. The first NanoBook device, from Packard Bell BV, will hit European markets during the third quarter.

Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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