Intel will try a new tactic to improve laptop battery life when it comes out next year with "Banias," its first chip designed from the ground up to power notebooks.
Banias, due out toward the end of 2002, is part of an increased focus on the laptop market by Intel and other chipmakers. Although desktop PC sales are limping, many manufacturers say that the worldwide market for mobile computers is faring somewhat better.
The upcoming chip, which sources say is code-named after an archaeological site in the Middle East, will differ from other Intel notebook chips in two fundamental ways.
First, the chip will contain more power conservation features than current notebook processors. Second, the chip will have a distinct architecture from Intel's desktop chips, with the addition of new features, said Frank Spindler, general manager of Intel's mobile product unit.
Intel's current notebook chips share, for the most part, the same basic design as the Pentium IIIs for desktops and even its Xeon chips for servers. These chips do differ when it comes to speed, cache size, packaging and some power management features, but all use largely the same basic chip design.
With Banias, Intel plans to offer a design better suited to machines on the go. Banias is expected to coexist with a mobile version of Pentium 4, but consume less power.
"There are a lot of unique, mobile characteristics," Spindler said. "You can think of it as a new architecture?We may add performance through different techniques and core architectures."
Spindler declined to offer specifics or confirm the code-name, but would speak generally about Intel's mobile plans.
The chip will run the same Windows-based programs as Intel's other desktop chips and is part of the same family of chips as the Pentium III and Pentium 4, even sharing some of the latter's new features.
The company first announced this new branch of its product line in October, but offered few details.
Banias will enter a growing market. A number of new laptop chips from Intel and others are due to hit the market before Banias finds its way into computers next year.
Next month, Casio and other Asian manufacturers will release notebooks in the United States containing Transmeta's latest Crusoe processor. To date, only Sony has marketed a Crusoe-based notebook here.
Toward mid-2001, the first notebooks with Advanced Micro Devices' Athlon chip are expected to debut. Meanwhile, Intel will continue to produce Celeron and Pentium IIIs for portables. "Tualatin," an improved version of the Pentium III, will show up in laptops in the third quarter of the year. Among other features, Tualatin will be made with copper, instead of aluminum, wires and contain yet-to-be announced power-saving technologies.
"Tualatin is a Pentium III at its core, but there is more to it than that," Spindler said.
Then, in the first half of 2002, Intel will release the first mobile Pentium 4 chips.
Banias, formerly Caesarea Philippi, is the Arabic name for the Hellenistic city of Paneas whose name derives from Pan, the Greek god of herds and shepherds. His cult was observed in a large cave at the foot of Mount Hermon, where a source of the River Jordan emerges.
Pepperdine University has conducted digs in the area that have unearthed parts of a palace from Herod Agrippa II. Modern-day Banias is located in Israel, where the Intel design team for the new chip is based. The company typically codenames its chips after geographical features.
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