Beware the Centrino brand

Beware the Centrino brand

Summary: Every time I see the brand name Centrino pop up in the news, my blood begins to boil. Here's why.

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TOPICS: Hardware
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centrinoEvery time I see the brand name Centrino pop up in the news, my blood begins to boil. Here's why. Intel makes Wi-Fi radios -- the part that's needed to connect to an 802.11 Wi-Fi network. Intel is in competition with other Wi-Fi radio makers such as Atheros and Broadcom to get its radio into every notebook computer coming off the assembly line. Intel also wants to keep AMD at bay from making any headway with its mobile processors. So, if a perception can be created that you must have Intel's radio and Intel's mobile processor, that puts Intel's competition at an extreme disadvantage. Enter Centrino.

When you see Centrino branding in public hotspots such as hotels and airports, the message is that if you have a Centrino system, it will work here. Although Intel would never say it, subtly, this "compatibility message" implies that if you don't have a Centrino system, you might not be able to connect. As I've said before, this? is, of course, untrue. All you need is a system with a Wi-Fi radio in it. (Ones that support the 802.11b flavor of Wi-Fi will almost always do.)

Though I haven't heard the pitch recently (and I hope I don't), Intel has also, in the past, implied that Centrino is what's needed to?eke out the most battery life from a Wi-Fi-based notebook. This "power efficiency message" is also untrue. Intel has never offered proof that, in order to that get great battery life, a notebook must have all of the parts that qualify a notebook as a Centrino notebook: the Pentium-M processor, the processor's surrounding cast of characters called the chipset, and Intel's radio. As it turns out, the culprits that are responsible for the great battery life are just the processor and the chipset. If a notebook has the processor and the chipset, but not the Intel radio, it cannot display the Centrino brand.

These two messages -- the compatibility message and the power efficiency message -- are what builds demand for the Centrino package (the processor, the chipset, and the radio). Just as with the old "Intel Inside" campaign, which served the company quite well, Intel wants you to demand a Centrino system instead of a Wi-Fi system on the basis that you'll get the best battery life and the most compatability out of such a system. Much to the chagrin of companies like AMD, Atheros, and Broadcom that want to see their parts inside all of those notebook computers, this has been effective at putting leverage on notebook manufacturers to put the entire Centrino package in their gear.

But not all notebook makers are on board with Centrino to the exclusion of other options. Dell, for example, gives buyers the option of going with the complete Centrino bundle, or substituting Dell's Wireless solution. Why would someone do this? According to the online configurators on Dell's Web site, it saves you $19, which means that, at Dell's volume, it saves Dell (and probably other notebook manufacturers) a ton. In a weird twist of fate, perhaps you can thank Intel's Centrino campaign for this savings. According to a report on Netstumbler, "Intel drove demand for Wi-Fi with its Centrino marketing campaign, but it also has helped push prices lower." Maybe it's reading between the lines, but lowering prices may be the only way to compete with the Centrino campaign. Short term, the benefit of the Centrino "pressure" is that we all pay less. But long term, if competitors get squeezed out by cut-throat pricing, we could end up paying more.

Topic: Hardware

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16 comments
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  • GO AMD!!

    Good thing AMD is [b]finally[/b] getting ready to fire a shot across Intel's bow with their own mobile solution - Tourino.

    With any luck AMD's offerings will be seen more often in laptop design once this campaign gets up and running.
    Wolfie2K3
  • Linux and Centrino

    Don't forget that they also mean Windows. There is still no
    production release or support for Linux. sigh... some care.
    reo2@...
  • BETA vs VHS

    Technical battles are not always won by superior technology and Intel knows this. Intel is a marketing machine and would not be here today were it not for that. AMD is definitely pulling ahead. If you're into the technology, you know this, but Joe Average buying a new laptop/computer does not necessarily know this and is suseptible to the marketing shill. Caveat Emptor. Do your research, for all computers are NOT created equal no matter what the marketing department says.
    jay@...
  • What's the problem?

    Since when is shrewd advertising a bad thing? We market a line of white box Centrino machines that do a better job than anything else I've seen. If you want to get upset, look into politics.
    Keith Hoffman
    kehoffman
    • White Box what?

      Maybe I'm dumb, but just how does one market white box Centrino? Isn't Centrino a brand that only applies to laptops? I've seen very few "white box" laptops. And if they were laptops, I'd think Intel would balk at Centrino certifying a "white box" one.

      Unless you mean White Box linux, but then again, Linux hasn't gotten the nood on using the Centrino logo yet, though I hear it's coming soon.

      Do you maybe mean white box Celeron systems? Of course, a Celeron system wouldn't have any parts in common with a Centrino, with one generally being a low-cost desktop CPU and the other a bundle that includes the built-from-scratch mobile processor - the Pentium M - in a laptop along with the Intel chip set and WiFi.

      Just wondering.
      tjleeland
    • shrewd or misleading

      Shrewd advertising is one thing. Misleading advertising is another. Intel parts are wonderful, but advertising and promoting them as a package(Centrino) that leads customers to the conclusion that it is the only way to use a laptop wirelessly is just misleading.
      Zane
      speedemon_z
  • Marketing 101

    David,
    It's called marketing. Perhaps you need to take a class!
    BoilerBiz
    • Deception is wrong, no matter what we call it

      It seems to be a sign of the times that we justify lying, deception, and half-truths by calling it marketing, as if that somehow makes it OK. If I do it to you, it's bad. If a billion-dollar company does it to all of us, it's marketing! I for one am glad that we have those who are willing to point out that the emperor has no clothes.
      SoftwarePro77
  • Centrino and WiFi

    I received a warranty replacement from Dell not too long ago. The warranty replacement was an "upgrade" from my previous laptop... it was a Dell Inspiron 8600. The Upgrade had lost serial, parrallel, and Irda ports, it had lost a combined touchpad and eraser pointer, it had lost certain audio outputs... but it was an UPGRADE, and it was CENTRINO. Overall the new machine was pretty good until I tried hooking it up to my existing WiFi network (Apple Airport Extreme based.) Dell told me point blank that Centrino was not Airport Extreme capable... and that I needed a new access point. I went out and purchased a Linksys access point and all has worked since then. But this was Dell parrotting Intel propaganda. I now have Airport Extreme, Airport Express and the Linksys as access points, and my Dell works fine with any of the access points. (I will say that I prefer the security on the Linksys but it is a negligible factor.) I was and still am p-----d at Dell for telling me that I had to go out and spend another $80 to get Centrino capable hardware. BTW a supervisor for Dell apologized for the misinformtion of his underling.)
    netlaw@...
  • Can I filter out articles created by David Berland

    ... I've seen more intelligent writing from a chimp.
    jon.townend@...
    • If only!

      I couldn't agree more. Some of the most poorly thought-out and trite garbage I've ever read comes from Mr. Berland. Though I most admit he's written one or two well researched and educational pieces, most of it is poorly conceived, uninspired, banal tripe.

      I really don't know why he's still here.
      tjleeland
      • clarify?

        Could u guys clarify what exactly you disagree with in this article? It makes sense to me...
        grayman
    • Propaganda = bad

      I'm saddend to see that Intel's propaganda has reached even those deluded enough to see the writing of a chimp as more intelligent than any human.
      speedemon_z
  • Sounds like a hit and run to me

    Why not explain what your problem with the facts are? Why just hit and run?
    dsatwork
  • Why's and Wherefores

    I'm writting this from an almost 5 year old laptop. It works better now (almost) than it did
    when new. Even after a motherboard replacement and (Windows XP Pro event code) still reporting BIOS code errors. I'd call this machine a tinkerer's dream and a users nightmare.

    ie: Mobile Pentium 2 motherboard pushed by manufacturer to use up to a Pentium 3 850 (geezz), 2 millimeters between the procesor and the heat sink (normal amount of thermal greese turned from white to black in under 6 months) resulting in this machines first major crash, modem driver was never digitally signed (please don't make me have to learn how to write my own BIOS and drivers!) OK enough of my blah blah blah.

    Regarding this article, it's always good to have both sides of the story. Now, I will start from the bottom up today.

    (First) Number 1
    [lowering prices may be the only way to compete with the Centrino campaign. Short term, the benefit of the Centrino "pressure" is that we
    all pay less. But long term, if competitors get squeezed out by cut-throat pricing]

    Who can argue with that statement? Wouldn't we all be much happier with higher prices and less
    (confusion?) in the long run? I think YES and YES. opps, did I say YES to higher prices.
    Besides althought Intel (may) be the original price cutter in the computer industry that is
    still around, the competition between Intel and AMD is probably the one biggest reason prices are what they are today on the WinTel platform.

    (NEXT) Number 2
    [Much to the chagrin of companies like AMD, Atheros, and Broadcom that want to see their parts inside all of those notebook computers]

    Just my thoughts, but aren't both these products in an AMD based laptop? And if no, will someone please build one for the authors so they're blood will be happier, hopefully!

    (NEXT) Number 3
    [Intel has never offered proof that, in order to that get great battery life, a notebook must have all of the parts that qualify a notebook as a Centrino notebook: the Pentium-M processor, the processor's surrounding cast of characters called the chipset, and Intel's radio.]

    This is probably true. And if Intel did offer you proof one of the other platform manufactures would more than likely build a prototype that would out preform the battery life benchmarks and start a new advertising campaign, which I'm certain would eventually get the authors blood to boil as well. You were siting battery life, right? or did I miss something?
    To My knowledge you can buy a Centrino Laptop without Intel's minimum battery life requiremnet for centrino qualification, and/or without Intels required (Centrino compatable WiFi) and/or without an Intel Pentium-M processor, and it will be just a Centrino laptop without whichever required components are missing and without the (Intel Centrino trademark) but it still will not be an AMD or Powerbook or Sparc based laptop, yet.

    It starts to get redundant if I contiune so I'll ask a question if someone can help me.
    Would it be possible to find the one person that knows the most about about computers and/or the companies that develop new technologies, build, programm, administor, maintain, and secure these things (computers) so we all have some human standard to use as a starting point and because I could use some help here.
    stemcellphone
  • Intel processors pick the wrong brand

    G'day, can anyone explain this add from dzlong.com? is "pick the wrong" a chinese brand name? Cheers Davo


    ThinkPad R60e 0658AD6 Buy it now
    Price : ??? 256 Market Price : ??? 320
    Detail : ThinkPad R60e 0658AD6 main performance




    Intel processors pick the wrong brand
    15-inch screen size pick wrong
    Notebook Intel Celeron M processor 440 pick wrong
    Notebook pick the wrong frequency 1860MHz
    Pick the wrong CPU core Yonah
    Centrino technology-pick the wrong Centrino
    Two pick the wrong 1024KB cache
    Notebook chips Intel processors pick the wrong
    System bus frequency of 533MHz pick wrong
    Pick the wrong type of DDR2 memory
    Standard memory capacity of 512MB pick wrong
    Memory 2048MB maximum support pick wrong

    ThinkPad R60e 0658AD6 Storage Performance




    Pick the wrong 80GB hard drive capacity
    Description SATA 5400RPM drive pick wrong
    Pick the wrong type COMBO drive
    Pick the wrong speed 24X drive

    ThinkPad R60e 0658AD6 display




    Standard resolution 1024 x 768 pick wrong

    ThinkPad R60e 0658AD6 Audio Video




    Integrated graphics chips Intel PRO pick wrong
    The largest memory capacity shared memory 224M, depending on configuration memory may be wrong pick
    Audio System Intel High Definition Audio chip, dual stereo sound speakers pick the wrong
    Pick wrong with built-in speakers

    ThinkPad R60e 0658AD6 network equipment




    NIC 10/100/1000 BASE-T pick wrong
    Pick the wrong 56K V.92 MODEM

    ThinkPad R60e 0658AD6 input and output




    Referring to pick from the wrong equipment ThinkPad 2.0kg
    I / O interface delivering ?? 3 ?? USB VGA, 1 x RJ-11, 1 x RJ-45, pick the wrong expansion interface
    PCMCIA slot number one, pick the wrong Type II

    ThinkPad R60e 0658AD6 parameters




    Pick the wrong notebook weight 2.88Kg
    Appearance of 332 ?? 269 ?? pick the wrong 98/Me/2000/XP
    Chassis pick the wrong material composite material

    ThinkPad R60e 0658AD6 power specifications




    Six battery-lithium battery specifications pick wrong
    Life pick the wrong time of 2.5 hours
    davosshed