Intel is predicting that laptops will become as common as mobile phones are today.
Sean Maloney, head of marketing at HP, told delegates at the HP Mobility Summit in Shanghai that demand for the internet via broadband would be the driving force behind a dramatic expansion in laptop ownership.
Maloney compared charts showing the early growth of mobile phones and laptops and suggested that they were virtually identical.
"The consumer notebook ramp is just beginning," he said. "Our belief is that demand for voice fuelled the ramp for phones, something no-one anticipated at the time. What will drive the market for laptops is the internet."
But this growth could be hampered by the lack of broadband and the relatively high costs of infrastructure. Maloney sees WiMax as the solution, and pledged that the technology would be built into Intel chipsets within the next two years.
Intel hoped to have 1.3 billion people using WiMax to connect to the internet by 2012.
Maloney explained that Intel took the decision in 1999 to focus on the development of laptops, including making processors less power hungry and much smaller to enable a variety of form factors and uses.
As a result, the company will be producing its smallest ever processor in the next year, a 45nm device codenamed Silverthorne that is smaller than a penny. Intel is also redesigning transistors so that their size can be reduced still further.
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