News Schmooze: Chips learn to communicate

It's all about communication, Intel says in its impenetrable fashion. Also, concept PCs and broadband price cuts

Intel unveiled a good number of new products and initiatives this week at its Developer Conference, many of which verge on the incomprehensible to an average Joe like the Schmoozer. For example, new memory technologies that use photons, nanometres and very tiny magical fairies to be able to store the contents of the British Library in your Walkman. This sounds like a good idea, but don't ask me to explain it. Communications, though, is the big deal; you could almost say it is The Business, even. Intel is going to bring all sorts of improvements to wireless LANs and make them available in Europe via technical trickery understood only by themselves and by ZDNet UK's learned correspondents. They're also putting the XScale chips into everything in sight, a massive effort that could only be made possible by sacking 7,000 people in the communications division. That's the New World Order: it's all about having as few employees as possible, so that you can afford to load each of them down with more technology.
Intel's cure for 'sick' industry
New memory technologies on the way Intel also displayed some more of its concept PCs, which are more awe-inspiring than ever before. The concept PC department at Intel was originally created after Apple sold a lot of computers because they looked cool, and it now employs perhaps hundreds if not thousands of staff, all engaged in squeezing the most creative possible PC design ideas from their magnificent brains. Their remit is to let their imaginations soar beyond all limits, leaving behind drab conventional notions of practicality, attractiveness and even good taste. Thus we have PC concepts that would otherwise never have seen the light of day, such as G.R.A.N.N.Y. (a stolid, upright, respectable-looking PC for the elderly), or Ikebana, which sports an "innovative modular design" that looks like a pile of multicoloured plastic kindergarten blocks glued onto a dinner tray. Intel obviously made the right choice in devoting more effort to its design wing, since it seems to need all the help it can get.
Why Intel will never inspire an iMac
Future computers take a new form
Intel Concept PCs
The Schmoozer's admiration of British Telecommunications Group grows with each passing news-infested week. This is a telecoms giant with its finger on the pulse of technology, although admittedly it's on technology without any discernable pulse. BT does more to help you make predictions about the future than any other company: once the company latches onto a particular technology, you know it's past its sell-by date. Maybe that's why the Schmoozer greeted this week's broadband pricing reductions with mixed feelings. While ADSL for £30 a month plus £65 for the adapter isn't too bad, the persistently slow broadband take-up in most countries, and the rash of broadband bankruptcies in the US makes you wonder if the window for mass adoption of high-speed Internet access has passed. BT finally deciding to make it affordable would, from that point of view, be the final rusty nail in the coffin. Not to say that broadband isn't cool, just that with economic growth meandering along in the sewers people might find better things to spend their cash on, like rent or baked beans.
Broadband prices to halve by 1 April
BT's track record with this sort of thing has been far from attractive. It made the tactical mistake of giving people the impression that WAP would let them view 3D Internet graphics on their mobile phones, and is still squeezing its ISDN customers for all they're worth. More recently, BT has begun promoting what it calls the Digital Home to people who have work done on their telephone wiring. The Digital Home may sound reminiscent of the recent buzzwords in the industry, which usually refer to things like MP3 players and wireless networking, but BT has a different idea. The concept is that BT engineers will come into your house, rip up your walls and lay all sorts of cabling through the place, with miscellaneous ports sticking out here and there through the skirting boards. It will have a high-tech hub buried somewhere under your back garden, festering like the corpse of futuristic ideas past. What will it let you do? Well, it will let you use your phone in any room of the house. What's more, it will give you additional places to plug your TV into your cable or satellite feed. And it will also give you the ability to tap into your broadband connection from different rooms of the house. It does all this using copper and coaxial wiring, which are obsolete, and CAT5e wiring, which will soon be made obsolete by wireless LANs. And all this for the low price of £1,089!
The Digital Home
The News Schmooze is ZDNet UK's irreverent take on the week's news. Send your tip-offs to: mailroomuk@zdnet.com.


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