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Intel outlines products for "anytime" connectivity

Posted: 12 Sep 2002 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:pc? consumer electronics? networking protocols? wlan infrastructure? gigabit ethernet controller?

Three senior Intel executives said at the IDF keynote on September 10 that achieving seamless connectivity between devices is the greatest challenge facing developers. To address this challenge, Intel revealed products and technologies that will enable "any device, anytime, anywhere" connectivity for converged computing and communications.

Louis Burns, VP and co-GM of Intel's Desktop Platforms Group, called for cooperation among PC and consumer electronics industry leaders such as Microsoft and Sony, as well as others to further the "anytime" computing vision.

"What people really want is the ability to have any device - be it a PC, a notebook, a PDA, or a common consumer electronic device such as TV or stereo - to interact seamlessly with any other device, anytime, whether they are at home, in the office or on the go. Industry collaboration, and industry standards are what will make this vision a reality," said Burns. He further said that devices within the digital home environment should seamlessly work together based on widely accepted, open standards such as IEEE, IP networking protocols, and Universal Plug and Play device protocols.

Anand Chandrasekher, vice president and general manager of Intel's Mobile Platforms Group, said the mobile Banias platform is set for release in 1H 2003.

"Mobile PCs with the Banias platform will provide simple, untethered, cutting-edge wireless performance in a choice of cool new form factors," said Chandrasekher. "With the Banias platform, Intel is taking a holistic approach to designing for mobility - from the way the Banias microarchitecture was designed from the ground up for low power consumption and high performance, to the way that the other platform components work in concert to deliver better wireless mobility, to the work that Intel is doing with other companies to address wireless security and ease-of-use issues."

Banias ties together the convergence of computing and communications with dual band wireless connectivity. It integrates a dual band wireless solution that delivers both 802.11a and 802.11b wireless connectivity at 54Mbps and 11Mbps respectively. This solution is backward compatible with existing WLAN infrastructure and enables access to a broad range of networks including corporate, home, and wireless hot spots in airports, hotels, restaurants, and other public locations. It can automatically connect via the fastest connection available at the given location. A number of software solutions will improve security and decrease the complexity of wireless networking.

Intel introduced the Intel 82540EP GbE controller, claimed to be the first such controller optimized for mobile designs to meet the high-performance, low-power demands of mobile PCs. This controller has automatic power-down features that reduce power by up to 75 percent over the currently available Gigabit Ethernet controller, yet enables seamless transfer between wired and wireless connections. The new controller is being validated with the Banias platform, to shorten the design-qualification process.

Another new controller, the Intel PRO/1000 MT Mobile Controller, delivers 10-, 100-, and 1000Mbps network connection over standard Cat.5 copper cable and will automatically negotiate to run at the fastest speed possible. This Controller is pin compatible with Intel's latest 10/100 LAN on motherboard (LOM), implying that mobile PC manufacturers can provide 10 times throughput without having to redesign their motherboards.

Architectural enhancements

Some of the Banias architectural enhancements include branch prediction, instruction combination, and bus power optimization. When combined, these technologies will significantly improve performance without sacrificing battery life.

Chandrasekher said that Intel is also extending its rigorous validation expertise beyond the processor to the Banias platform's wireless capabilities, which should result in greater reliability, improved time-to-market, and reduced development costs for computer makers.

Intel's wireless solution in a Banias platform is designed to work in concert with the CPU and chipset. Banias is claimed to be the first to deliver on all four mobility vectors: performance, battery life, connectivity, and form factor innovation.

Intel provided details on four new technologies to increase performance and reduce power consumption. These are: Advanced Branch Prediction, Micro-Op Fusion, a Power Optimized Processor System Bus, and Dedicated Stack Manager. Advanced Branch Prediction analyzes a program's past behavior and predicts which operations it is likely to request in the future, resulting in higher performance. When several operations are ready to execute at the same time, Micro-Op Fusion technology merges them into a single operation, which improves both performance and power efficiency. Unlike many current systems, which provide power to components even when they are not in use, Power Optimized Processor System Bus implements architectural and circuit innovations that allow lower voltage swing and tight buffer management resulting in lower power consumption by providing power only where it is needed. Additionally, the Dedicated Stack Manager uses dedicated hardware to keep track of internal accounting, allowing the processor to execute program instructions without interruption. When combined, these technologies significantly improve performance without sacrificing battery life.

Showcasing seamless connectivity for wireless platforms, Ronald Smith, senior vice president and general manager of Intel's Wireless Communications and Computing Group, showed how digital home and digital office environments could be extended to small form factor handheld devices. Intel PCA-based client demonstrations using the Intel PXA250 processor, and Intel StrataFlash memory showed how wireless handheld devices using today's cellular networks now have the ability to access home PCs or corporate networks to enable viewing videos, pictures, or MP3 files stored on a PC or corporate server.

Smith discussed the impact of convergence on hardware and software development for the wireless handheld market segment. He noted that the tradeoff between performance and battery life remains key challenges for developers. He pointed out to Intel's work in multichip packaging technologies and advanced integration as methods to address the issue. Intel's "wireless Internet on a chip" capability where compute, communications, and memory functions are placed on a single chip, is a leading example of this approach, he said.

- Kirtimaya Varma

EE Times-Asia

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