Shrinking devices key to Intel WiMax vision

Intel's conception of all-over wireless Internet depends on smaller, more power-efficient devices as well as widespread WiMax adoption

Intel's "Ultra Mobile" device platform will get smaller and less power-hungry over the next few years, becoming a key component in the company's vision of a personal wireless Internet available everywhere, a company executive said Wednesday.

What was introduced last year as the UMPC (Ultra Mobile Personal Computer) platform will expand into a wide variety of devices in the next few years, said Anand Chandrasekher, senior vice president and general manager of Intel's Ultra Mobility Group. At the annual Wireless Communications Alliance Symposium in San Jose, California, he showed off the EO, a UMPC by TabletKiosk, and said he looked forward to full Web access on pocket-sized devices within 18 months. The company will give more details on its UMPC plans at the Intel Developer Forum in April, he said.

WiMax, the standards-based wide-area wireless technology that is now becoming mobile, will be the other key tool in giving users full-time access to the Web and other rich Internet-based applications, Chandrasekher said. WiMax is designed to deliver more than 1Mbps to a device over a range of a mile or kilometers or more. Intel will offer a combination of WiMax and Wi-Fi in add-on cards for PCs first and plans to have it in chipsets for PCs and Ultra Mobile devices in 2008.

At the same time, Ultra Mobile devices will get smaller. In the first half of this year, there will be Ultra Mobile devices that are one-quarter the size of the current architecture and use half the power. Next year, the Ultra Mobile platform will be one-seventh the size of current devices and use one-tenth the power, he said.

Intel has often compared Wi-Fi to WiMax, and on Wednesday Chandrasekher said the company aims in time to reach the same attach rate for WiMax on notebooks as Wi-Fi has today -- more than 90 percent, he said.

"We have tremendous momentum," Chandrasekher said. The linchpin is Sprint Nextel's planned mobile WiMax deployment, set to start late this year and reach 100 million U.S. residents next year, he said. Intel expects at least four other large commercial deployments of mobile WiMax in the world this year, serving more than 20 million subscribers. The fixed form of WiMax already has more than 40 commercial deployments, he said.

The Apple iPhone introduced last week is a good example of what Intel means by the mobile personal Internet, Chandrasekher said. Similar to Apple's demonstration last week, he showed a version of the New York Times Web page that let him zoom in to view text on the Tablet Kiosk device's seven-inch screen.

WiMax's future depends partly on how quickly the WiMax Forum gets going on a second wave of product certification for mobile WiMax, said Adlane Fellah, an analyst at Maravedis, a broadband research company in Montreal. That wave will look at products using multiple antennas, which is the target technology for most vendors, he said.

Fellah's vision for WiMax adoption appears more conservative than Intel's: He thinks Sprint Nextel will probably have between 10 million and 15 million paying subscribers by 2010. But he believes Sprint will count that as a success and that mobile WiMax as a whole will succeed in many locations around the world.


Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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