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Three Questions About Intel's WiDi Streaming For Tablets

Intel is bringing WiDi high-def video streaming from PC-to-TV, to PC-to-tablets. Is this a good thing?

Has Intel's Wireless Display (WiDi) technology finally gotten useful? I don't think I was the only consumer who scratched his big, dumb head when I ran into WiDi-equipped laptops at Best Buy earlier this year.

Maybe the TV-viewing tastes of my wife and kids diverge too much from mine, but I didn't find "stop crowding around a laptop screen!" a very compelling reason to spend $100 on a Netgear add-on box for my TV (not to mention the higher price of the WiDi-enabled laptop).

At its Intel Developer Forum on Monday, Intel said it is bringing its WiDi technology to tablet screens, too. In other words, you'll be able to stream high-def video and games from your laptop or desktop PC to a tablet sporting a WiDi video chip (the Atom CPU used in the tablet in Intel's demo may or may not be a requirement).

"Toilet gamers and pron fiends rejoice," went one tweet. Joking aside, I do think this could make WiDi much more useful.

Tablets are going to take off. So is the movement to drop cable or satellite TV, led by among younger people savvy with Hulu and Netflix streaming.

For such users, WiDi streaming from PC to tablet inside their home or apartment will prove to be a must-have.

Here are my doubts, though:

a) Will Intel try too hard to boost its Atom CPU on tablets, at WiDi's expense? For instance, Intel could bundle WiDi to its Atom CPUs to tablet makers at a low price. This is what Intel has done traditionally with its graphics chips, to the chagrin of competitors like AMD, Nvidia and the occasional antitrust regulator.

Bundling WiDi would boost Atom. But it would probably hurt WiDi's sales for ARM tablets. That's key because ARM is ahead of Atom in smartphones and tablets now, because it is cheaper and more energy-efficient.

b) Will WiDi's range and speed prove significantly better than Wi-Fi in the real world? The Wireless HD standard upon which WiDi relies is supposed to offer up to 4 Gbps at 10 meter range, with no requirement that PC and tablets can "see" each other. Not requiring so-called 'line-of-sight' is key, as a tablet-toting user will want to be able to roam around his/her apartment/home a lot, certainly much more than the laptop-to-TV user, who is just looking for a way to avoid plugging wires into the back of his TV.

c) How will WiDi affect tablet battery life? Wireless HD technology does operate in the 60 GHz Extremely High Frequency band. The higher the frequency of the signal, the shorter the range, unless you boost the power. Boosting the power drains batteries faster, an important factor with tablets. Will this make WiDi much more power-hungry than Wi-Fi?


What's your experience with WiDi? Do you think it has a future on tablets?

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