Intel pushes for conformity in notebooks

There are no common standards for components used in mobile computers, often leading to higher costs, says company executive.

TAIPEI--The adoption of common specifications will help drive industry adoption of notebooks and push cost down, according to a senior executive from Intel.

During his keynote address at Intel Developer Forum here Tuesday, Bill Siu, vice president and general manager of channels platform group, said, unlike desktops, there are no ingredient or component standards for mobile PCs. This often leads to uncompetitive pricing and higher support costs, he noted.

To solve what Siu described as "infrastructure pain points", Intel in 2004 introduced its Common Building Blocks (CBB) program for three specifications in hard disk drive, optical disk drive and LCD panel. The initiative aims to establish consistency in components used in notebooks, regardless of who manufactures them, so that assembly cost and time-to-market can be reduced.

Four more components were added to the CBB program this year, which now includes specifications for battery pack, power adaptor, keyboard and customizable notebook panel.

According to Siu, the first set of notebooks carrying components that adhere to all the seven common specifications will begin shipping within the next two weeks. These 11 design laptop models will be offered by three of the biggest ODMs (original design manufacturers) in Taiwan: Asus, Compal and Quanta Computer. These design models can then be adopted and manufactured by hardware makers, or OEMs (original equipment manufacturers), such as Hewlett-Packard and Dell Computer.

The CBB program not only ensures components are built to deliver optimized performance on Intel machines, Siu said, OEMs are also able to go to more than one supplier for their components.

Matt Haller, Intel's director of system ingredient enabling, mobile platform group, said the specifications are designed for multiple generations of technologies. For example, a CBB-based battery pack can cater to high or low cell capacities depending on the prevailing configurations.

According to Siu, there are currently more than 25 component suppliers involved in the CBB program, the majority of which are based in Taiwan.

He added that there will be "a gradual build-up of an ecosystem of products over the next several months" and a substantial number by mid-year.

Intel is also likely to provide direct service support to customers who buy from smaller OEM partners through its Verified by Intel program, which has yet to be officially launched.

In other announcements at the IDF this week, the chipmaker has sealed several partnerships in the home entertainment market, including regional hardware and content providers for Viiv, according to Don MacDonald, the company's vice president and general manager of the digital home group.

Content partners, which include Sohu.com, primarily provide content such as TV, movies, music and games. MacDonald said Intel has also introduced a new service from Taiwanese player HiNet that will debut at the end of April, offering games and an e-learning platform to Viiv users.

Intel was initially expected to make some major announcements on new content agreements at the IDF this week, but did not do so eventually. According to a company spokesperson, it is still in discussions with Taiwanese broadcasters but these partnerships are not ready to be announced.

Vivian Yeo of ZDNet Asia reported from Taipei, Taiwan.

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