COMPUTEX - Intel shows more advanced ultraportable

Intel showed off a new prototype running its Menlow chip package for ultraportable devices at Computex.

Just two months after Intel unveiled a package of chips codenamed McCaslin for ultramobile computers, the company rolled out a prototype device running McCaslin's successor, Menlow, at Computex.

During a speech at Computex, Intel's Anand Chandrasekher showed a recently completed prototype from Finland's Elektrobit based on Menlow, which won't ship until next year. Chandrasekher is the senior vice president and general manager of Intel's Ultra Mobility Group.

Designed by Elektrobit's team of engineers in seven weeks, the Mobile Internet Multimedia Device (MIMD) prototype has a slide-out keyboard, a 4.8-inch touchscreen with a resolution of 1,024 pixels by 600 pixels, and a 3.2-megapixel camera. Instead of Windows, the MIMD uses Midinux, a Linux operating system for mobile devices from China's Red Flag Linux Co.

Proposed specifications for the MIMD include Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, with the choice of adding Mobile WiMax or HSPA (High Speed Packet Acces) cellular access. Other features include an integrated GPS (Global Positioning System), navigation software, a Micro USB port, and a slot for a Micro SD (Secure Digital) memory card.

The MIMD is lightweight but felt hot when picked up. Intel executives said power-management features in the software had not been activated in the prototype and production models will run much cooler.

MIMD wasn't the only Menlow prototype shown during Chandrasekher's speech. He also showed Compal Electronics Co.'s prototype Menlow device, which has been shown before. Like the Elektrobit prototype, the Compal device has a slide-out keyboard and touchscreen. It was also shown running Midinux.

Neither Compal or Elektrobit plan to sell these devices under their own names. Elektrobit hopes to license its design to interested companies, while Compal will manufacture its device under contract for another company.

When Menlow-powered ultraportables like these become available next year, Intel expects them to have a battery life of up to six hours, nearly double the three hours of battery life typical of devices based on McCaslin.

The McCaslin package -- formerly known as the Ultra Mobile Platform 2007 -- consists of Intel's A100 or A110 processors and a chipset. These processors, formerly codenamed Steeley, are basically Celeron-M chips that Intel put into a smaller package designed for ultraportable devices.

The Silverthorne processor used in Menlow -- which will be called Ultra Mobile Platform 2008 -- is a new processor design and will be produced using the 45-nanometer process that Intel plans to bring on line later this year. The chips are small, allowing 2,500 of them to be produced on a single 300-millimeter silicon wafer, Chandrasekher said, showing off a wafer he said contained Silverthorne chips as an example.

In Menlow, the Silverthorne processor will be paired with Poulsbo, a single-chip chipset that helps to further reduce the space required for a device's motherboard. McCaslin's chipset is composed of two chips.

Intel isn't the only chipmaker that hopes to see demand for small, ultraportable devices take off. Taiwan's Via Technologies took the wraps off its Mobile ITX motherboard form factor and NanoBook reference design at Computex. The first NanoBook device, from Packard Bell, will hit European markets during the third quarter.

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Sumner Lemon

IDG News Service

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