Maybe now, Intel's Centrino will offer a technical advantage

Summary:For years, Intel and I have been at odds over advantages of going with a Centrino-enabled notebook versus a non-Centrino notebook.  I've argued that Centrino is nothing more than a package of Intel-only parts that has so far proven to be no more competent at connecting to and using WiFi networks than similar packages with some non-Intel parts (in particular, the Wi-Fi radio).

For years, Intel and I have been at odds over advantages of going with a Centrino-enabled notebook versus a non-Centrino notebook.  I've argued that Centrino is nothing more than a package of Intel-only parts that has so far proven to be no more competent at connecting to and using WiFi networks than similar packages with some non-Intel parts (in particular, the Wi-Fi radio).  Based on the perception it's trying to create that Centrino is better at Wi-Fi than anything else is,  Intel would like nothing more than for consumers to be demanding Centrino from notebook manufacturers with the end result being market foreclosure on other Wi-Fi radio makers.  Intel gets to leverage its existing relationship with OEMs (for processors, chipsets, etc.) and can come up with packages like Centrino as well as package deals that are tough for OEMs to resist. 

But today comes news of a potential breakthrough by the research folks at Intel.  According to a report in InfoWorld, the company is expected to announce at The VLSI Symposium in Japan that Intel has "figured out how to integrate all the elements needed to connect to wireless local area networks into a [single piece of silicon]."  The story goes on to say "Intel was able to reduce the power consumption of the package and lower the cost of building wireless networking technology into a notebook, mobile phone, or personal digital assistant."  In other words, if this technology becomes a part of the Centrino brand, there's a chance (we won't know until we see it in action) that Centrino-branded systems will actually be more beneficial to users (longer battery life and lower cost) than non-Centrino systems.  If the new technology lives up to one of Intel's hopes -- to support other wireless networks such as ones based on WiMax -- and other radio makers don't have anything comparable to compete against the innovation, Intel could end up with a wireless business that's as big, if not bigger than it's processor business (when you stop to consider everything that could include the technology).  Imagine that.

Topics: Intel

About

David Berlind was fomerly the executive editor of ZDNet. David holds a BBA in Computer Information Systems. Prior to becoming a tech journalist in 1991, David was an IT manager.

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