Intel calls for laptop standards

Consumers would be better served if laptop makers could agree to hardware standards for laptop components, according to the chipmaker

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 in Taipei on Tuesday, Bill Siu, vice-president and general manager of Intel's channels platform group, said, unlike desktops, there are no 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) programme 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 programme this year, which now includes specifications for battery pack, power adaptor, keyboard and customisable 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 laptop models will be offered by three of the biggest laptop designers in Taiwan: Asus, Compal and Quanta Computer. These design models can then be adopted and manufactured by hardware makers such as HP and Dell.

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

Matt Haller, Intel's director of system ingredient enabling, in its 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 programme, 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 manufacturers through its Verified by Intel programme, which has yet to be officially launched.