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Intel to integrate USB, wireless into P4 chipsets

Making it easier to get digital media to its digital media processor

Intel Developer Forum Intel Developer Forum, San Jose Intel will add native USB 2.0 support to its PC system chipsets early next year, the company's desktop products group chief, Louis Burns, promised today.

And wireless 802.11 support will follow around a year later, he pledged.

Intel's roadmap highlights the release during Q1 2002 of a version of its Brookdale chipset, which will debut early this summer, designed to support DDR SDRAM. Certainly, there's nothing to suggest Brookdale will offer native USB 2.0 support, so we suspect that it will come in with the successor to today's RDRAM-based P4 chipset, the 850.

But whatever chipsets ends up offering USB 2.0 support - and we reckon if one does, they all will sooner or later - it will certainly help drive the adoption of the upgraded, 480Mbps peripheral interconnect technology.

Essentially, it's part of Intel's strategy to drive the Pentium 4 platform as the core for rich media enabled systems - its digital convergence platform, if you will. The P4 can't flourish as a multimedia host unless Intel makes it as easy as possible for users to get high quality video and audio into their systems.

Fans of IEEE 1394 (aka FireWire and iLink) will wonder at this point whether Intel will add native support for that technology to its chipsets. Burns' answer will disappoint them: 1394 will not be supported natively, he said. Instead, the company is working to get wireless 1394 to hook into a PC system via wireless connections.

Burns was fairly positive about 1394, given some of the brickbats his colleagues have previously whacked it with in the past, but the bottom line is that Intel's stance on the technology remains unchanged: 1394 is for consumer electronics applications, USB 2.0 for PC-based roles.

Native wireless support will bridge the gap, allowing Intel-based PCs to live in a 1394 world without having to participate in it directly. In other words, Intel bringss all the benefit of 1394's wide CE industry support to the PC without actually having to go back on its words and admit that 1394 has a part to play in PC design. That's as good a way of getting cake and eating it to as we've seen in a long while.

Burns said Intel was working hard to promote 1394 over wireless and to drive the standard, though it has no plans to build silicon. The 802.11 side of the equation is interesting too, since Burns' IDF keynote demo was up in the 5GHz band, suggesting Intel wants 54Mbps 802.11a to replace the slower 911Mbps), lower frequency 802.11b that's powering most RF networks at the moment.

The chip giant is also driving the development of 802.11e quality of service extensions to both 802.11a and 802.11b. Improved QoS is essential to the delivery of high quality rich media over wireless, and that's particularly important if your strategy revolves around getting that data to your processor technology. ®

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