Intel has launched two ultra low-power mobile PC processors in an attempt to take on startup rival Transmeta.
The chip giant also said that IBM would be the first vendor to build sub-notebooks based on its new offerings - a 500Mhz Pentium III and a 500Mhz mobile Celeron. The machines will ship initially in Japan.
But Kevin Krewell, an analyst at chip consultancy MicroDesign Resources, claimed that the advent of the new chips was the reason for IBM dropping Transmeta's Crusoe last year. Until then, it had intended to use Crusoe as the basis of its forthcoming Thinkpad 240 sub-notebooks.
"This product [Pentium III] is targeted right at Transmeta. Intel responded to Transmeta's low-power challenge with a solid product and with an architecture that is already accepted by corporate mobile users. We believe that corporate buyers will be wary of Transmeta, but are very comfortable with Intel, making IBM's decision very easy. Intel's technology is not revolutionary, but evolutionary," he said.
The Pentium III will be Intel's first microprocessor to run at under one volt using its SpeedStep technology. Speedstep automatically detects whether a customer is using AC or battery power, and optimises itself to operate in one mode or the other respectively. The 500Mhz mobile Celeron chip does not include SpeedStep.
Frank Spindler, vice president and general manager of Intel's mobile platform group, said the new processors would be available in the US by the middle of the year. "We are breaking some major thresholds in terms of the voltage levels at which we operate our microprocessors and, as a result, we are breaking new thresholds in power consumption," he claimed.
Intel estimates that about 30 per cent of the new chips will be used in full-sized notebooks, with another 60 per cent going into thin and light notebooks. Mid-sized notebooks should account for the remaining 10 per cent.
The company added that it expects to see additional power consumption improvements when it switches from a 0.18 to a 0.13 micron manufacturing process in the middle of this year.
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