Intel mobile roadmap promises Air for the masses

Recession-busting plan is thin stuff?

Cebit 09 Intel promised Mac Airs for the masses today as it urged customers and companies to get over the economic crisis, ditch their old kit and stock up on new PCs.

Given that there seems to be more fear than attendees stalking the halls at Cebit this year, it's hardly surprising that the vendor is spending as much energy hurling reasons to buy at customers as spouting speeds and feeds.

Intel's mobile marketing director Karen Regis kicked off an update on the vendor's mobile roadmap by saying that 37 per cent of the installed base of PCs was over three years old, and that 38 per cent of installed PCs are desktops. This meant that users were excluded from rich content, she said, as well as stuck with flakey networking and security. And stuck at their desks.

Regis said that through the second quarter the vendor would start rolling out Montevina Plus – the successor to the Montevina mobile platform it launched last year. This would include Penryn-based processors running at 3GHz or more, and more emphasis on HD.

She said the rollout would also meant the vendor would be pushing its ultra low voltage technology – as used in the likes of the Macbook Air – down into the mainstream notebook market.

Such systems currently cost around $1500 up, she said, meaning only those execs with a personal tech jewellery budget could justify buying them. Intel planned to get very thin systems down to around $599 to $1,000 she said, placing them squarely in the mainstream, just above the netbooks which have taken the market by storm over the last year, and under the premium ultra thin products such as the Air.

Unlike netbooks, which Regis characterised as “consumption” devices, the ULV notebooks would be full scale PCs, she said, with screens starting at 10.2 inches, though more likely 13.3 inches and above.

On the desktop, director of microprocessor market Zane Ball, said 2009 would see Nehalem go mainstream, and he demoed the vendor's dual core Clarkdale chip.

However, in another nod at customers' shrinking IT budgets and the vendor's increased focus on emerging and niche markets, he said 2009 would be the year of the “net top”, the vendor's less mobile equivalent of the netbook.

Like netbooks, he argued such devices - often purpose-built for specific applications - would become second or third PCs in mature markets, or bring net connectivity to customers in emerging markets for the first time.

Intel's presentations at Cebit have referenced the global economic downturn, with chairman Craig Barrett declaring it would continue to invest its way out of the downturn, while accepting that budgets were more constrained than it might have expected nine months ago. Like its hardware vendor customers it has pinned its hopes on emerging markets to help take the sting out of the downturn in the West, with China and India both being targeted as coming consumer markets.

But Ball said that the downturn had not had any impact on the vendor's products strategy – a fair enough point, as process changes and microarchitecture developments are planned years in advance.

He argued that as what is in part a worldwide inventory correction works itself out, companies will be willing to unlock their IT budgets and start buying kit, if only because older PCs will become increasingly uneconomic. “We know four or five year old PCs are more expensive to maintain.”

Asked if the downturn would force Intel to price its parts more aggressively than it might have been planning to last year, he said, “It's a market place. When you have very different technology, you're going to be able to get more. The market will decide.” ®

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