COMPUTEX - Hardware makers prepare for Taipei showdown

Intel and AMD will square off next week at the annual Computex exhibition in Taipei with new chips and chipsets on show.

Intel and Advanced Micro Devices will square off this week at the annual Computex exhibition in Taipei, where many of the world's largest hardware makers will be showing off products slated for release later this year.

Computex 2007, which begins on Tuesday, will see Intel launch its P35 Bear Lake chipset and the debut of motherboards featuring the chips from many of Taiwan's top motherboard makers. The chipset handles interaction between the processor and the rest of the computer and Bear Lake promises speedier data paths for performance improvements.

Laptop computer designs based on Santa Rosa, the recently launched version of Intel's Centrino package of chips, should also be prominent.

AMD will be talking up its new Phenom quad-core processor, which was unveiled in mid-May, and the show should see some demonstrations from Taiwanese companies of Phenom-based desktop PCs.

Taiwan is home to the world's largest and most important computer hardware makers -- the companies who manufacture the guts of products that typically appear under more famous brand-names -- and Computex is where they show off their newest and most advanced products.

The show is an important barometer of hardware trends because Taiwanese companies like Asustek Computer and Hon Hai Precision Industry, which uses the Foxconn brand, supply many of the components and finished computers sold by Hewlett-Packard, Dell, and others. Thus the support of Taiwanese companies -- or lack of it -- can make or break a new technology.

This year wireless networking will be one such technology in the spotlight. The emerging 802.11n standard is expected to be seen in many laptop designs, but how fast it might penetrate markets beyond computing, such as wireless multimedia players, will become evident at the show.

Computex is also the home turf of Acer, the world's third-largest PC maker. The company doesn't plan any major announcements at the show but its aggressive expansion guarantees that the products on display at its booth will be closely watched.

Local newspapers and hardware technology blogs are already full of reports -- confirmed and otherwise -- about what else might be on show in Taipei.

The reports say Acer will show mini-PCs based on Intel CPUs and Asustek will show a laptop PC with a "bamboo-like leather" finish and a Linux-based laptop with NAND flash memory and 7-inch LCD. Intel will demonstrate its 45nm quad-core Harpertown server processors and server makers will show both it and the Penryn 45nm processor, the reports said.

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