The Intel Developer Forum (IDF) is techie heaven. Not only are there a few hundred technical classes covering all aspects of Intel's work, not only does William Shatner sometimes drop in to promote a book, but there are also plenty of chances to see work in progress. Some of that work involves hardware that won't be in the shops for years (if ever), together with its proud (if nervous) parents. The stuff that'll be turning up in the next few months is equally exciting. This IDF has been concentrating on portable devices and wireless -- two ideas that go together very well. Certainly, the future for handheld devices that compute, communicate, inform and entertain seems the brightest of any in an otherwise rather bleak commercial landscape. Here are some of the funkier toys scattered about the show that we managed to get our hands on. For more IDF news stories click here.
Personal Video Player
A prototype of the Personal Video Player from Intel and SONICblue, showing video captured from television. The final version, due next year for under $1,000 in the US, will look nothing like this, but the case will be no bigger and the screen no smaller.
A Panasonic notebook designed around the Banias mobile processor. Although Intel was not disclosing speeds at the forum, this system was running at 1.3GHz. Prototype Banias notebooks from IBM and Samsung were also on display, running Windows more or less reliably and with minders trying to prevent journalists from finding out technical details, more or less efficiently.
An XScale-based prototype device, used for remote control and access to home data. Intel is pushing the idea of a wireless-networked home very strongly, with emphasis on Universal Plug and Play (UPnP) and 802.11b as the technologies that link everything together automatically. Lime green translucent plastic is strictly optional.
Smart Display (Mira)
The Mira -- now called Smart Display -- device at play, remotely accessing a Windows XP desktop via a wireless network. Although seamless for many applications, its role as an untethered display to a PC is compromised by its inability to cope with moving video.
Another Smart Display, this time including thumb-wheel input. Intel hopes that the average home will have a number of these devices scattered around the place for Web browsing, music and video retrieval, and emailing -- all linked to a central server.
New handheld design
A reference design for the next generation of handhelds, including keyboard, video, GPRS and Java. Intel says that all the major handheld manufacturers are working on devices related to this one, and that these products will debut next year.
A selection of XScale portable devices. With the addition of 'Wireless MMX' (in reality the same MMX circuitry as used in the Pentium but shoehorned into the XScale design), Intel hopes to make the chip a natural choice for gaming and other graphics-intensive portable tasks.
Intel keeps trying to invent new device categories. This one, the Digital Briefcase, is a PDA with all the bulkiness and inconvenience of a full-sized notebook but without the ability to run desktop software. Good luck, Intel.
Your correspondent attempts to make good his escape from IDF...