Wire-free tablets with Intel Cherry Trail chips due this year

Charging a tablet could be a lot easier without charging cables

Charging a tablet could be as simple as placing it on a kitchen countertop, desk or table at a cafe. Then you can bid adieu to your charging cable.

That's how Intel envisions wireless charging in the not-too-distant future -- the technology should be available in tablets with Intel chips in the second half of this year, said Kirk Skaugen, senior vice president and general manager of Intel's PC Client Group, ahead of the International CES trade show in Las Vegas.

Tablets running on Intel's upcoming Cherry Trail chip will be able to offer the wireless charging features. It's part of a larger effort to rid computing devices of wires, which Intel perceives as a big hassle for users.

Intel also wants laptops and tablets to wirelessly stream images to displays, using technology that could eliminate HDMI or DisplayPort display cables. Tablets with Cherry Trail will support wireless display technology called Wi-Di, in which tablets will be able to stream video wirelessly to external displays.

Intel is also developing technology to allow tablets and PCs to stream video directly to TVs. The technology, called WiGig, is a faster version of Wi-Fi 802.11ac and could also replace USB 3.0 ports in tablets and PCs by transferring data at high speeds directly to external storage devices.

Wireless charging and display capabilities will come to laptops starting with chips code-named Skylake, due out in PCs in the second half of the year.

Intel believes wireless charging stations should be as easy to find as Wi-Fi signals. But making wireless charging a reality in tablets and laptops is a two-way affair, and the infrastructure for it needs to built out in cafes, airports and other public places. That could involve attaching circuitry under surfaces like tables, which then become wireless charging pads. A tablet, smartphone or laptop will automatically start recharging once placed on the surface.

Intel is already talking to people in the United Arab Emirates about building wireless charging capabilities at an airport in Abu Dhabi, Skaugen said.

Wireless charging will also eventually be found at entertainment spots, but Skaugen said it may take years for the infrastructure to be built out. Intel is backing wireless charging technology called Rezence, which is being promoted by the Alliance for Wireless Power (A4WP).

Cherry Trail is being designed for high-performance tablets and is based on the Airmont core. It will succeed the current batch of Atom chips, code-named Bay Trail, and also be the first tablet chip made using the 14-nanometer process, which is already being used for PC chips. The first Cherry Trail tablets are expected in the first half of this year.

Intel is loading Cherry Trail with other goodies as well. A technology called Truekey will allow users to log in to devices using face or fingerprint recognition. The technology could extend to logging users into online e-mail and bank accounts.

Intel earlier this year set a goal of shipping chips in 40 million tablets, which the company will likely meet. But with tablet shipments tapering off, the chip maker hopes the wire-free features will make Cherry Trail more attractive to buyers. Most popular tablets like Apple's iPad and Samsung's Galaxy tablets run on ARM processors, and Intel is trying to catch up by offering differentiating features.

Agam Shah covers PCs, tablets, servers, chips and semiconductors for IDG News Service. Follow Agam on Twitter at @agamsh. Agam's e-mail address is agam_shah@idg.com

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Agam Shah

IDG News Service
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