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Intel adds Draft-N to Centrino

Wireless boost for laptops coming this month

Intel has unveiled an improved wireless card it claims will allow notebook PC users to share five times the data at twice the range of their current 802.11a/g cards.

Intel's Next-Gen Wireless-N network connection is an embedded network adaptor card that uses the IEEE 802.11 Draft-N standard, and also operates with previous a, b, and g standards.

By announcing, Intel is jumping ahead of IEEE's final adoption of the 802.11n standard, expected later this quarter. Intel is also scooping its own launch of ‘Santa Rosa’, a product that will improve the popular Centrino and Centrino Duo platforms by updating the processor, chipset, graphics and wireless card.

Intel decided to launch the card early to support notebook users who want more bandwidth to download music files and high-definition video, as well as simple email and web pages, said Dave Hofer, director of wireless marketing for Intel's mobile platforms group.

Another reason Intel pushed the card to market was that Intel chief executive Paul Otellini has cited Santa Rosa as one of the technologies he is banking on to make his company more profitable in 2007. Intel has reported a string of disappointing quarterly earnings reports, including the most recent on January 16, when the company listed profits down 39 percent from its mark last year.

To meet the needs of high-bandwidth applications like Voip (voice over Internet Protocol) and digital media adaptors, Intel had to improve the four vectors of mobility it had first defined in 2003 with the original Centrino platform, Hofer said. The Wireless-N card helps to improve a notebook's battery life, performance, small form factor and wireless connectivity.

Intel expects the Wireless-N card to be popular today with consumers, as many business users wait for the full Santa Rosa upgrade, he said.

To keep home users happy, Intel ensured that the new card would not interfere with the busy wireless environment in a modern house, including cordless phones, microwave ovens and baby monitors, he said.

The new card boosts wireless bandwidth by using two input and output streams instead of one. The design enables the card to support MPEG-2 video signals by sustaining a 19Mbps (bits per second) data stream at a range of 68 metres, Hofer claimed.

The new card will hit markets quickly. Notebook vendors including Acer, AsusTek, Gateway and Toshiba will begin selling the card by the end of January, built into computers using Microsoft new Windows Vista OS. Other vendors including Dell and HP are expected to follow suit during the first half of 2007 when they launch notebooks with the entire "Santa Rosa" platform. Details of when the technology will be available in the UK were not announced.

The Next-Gen Wireless-N card, code-named ‘Kedron’, needs an improved wireless access point to work. To help shoppers find one, Intel also announced a ‘Connect with Centrino’ brand sticker that will be visible on retail store shelves to mark products from wireless vendors including Asus, Belkin, Buffalo, D-Link and Netgear.


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