IDF Report 2: WiMAX, the Crown Jewel  

In this special report I'll review most of the key slides and points that were presented in a keynote by David Perlmutter, Senior Vice President - General Manager, Mobility Group last week. The focus of Perlmutter's keynote was on Intel's new mobile Santa Rosa platform which will include new technologies such as a new chip set, graphics, wireless communications and NAND Flash disk caching technology. Yet at the end of the day, it's Intel's roadmap for mobile WiMAX that most want to read about and Intel's Perlmutter provided us with a glimpse at Intel's roadmap ahead. Introducing Santa Rosa

Cutting to the chase, Perlmutter really began his most interesting keynote points when stating that "our next big move is going to be in the first half of next year with our Santa Rosa platform. It launches many new things. It's going to use the Core 2 Duo that we just launched, but it's going to come with some enhancements that are enabled only at Santa Rosa. On top of that, it comes up with new technology chip set, graphics, new communication, wireless communication in a wide, broad range of things. And our NAND Flash disk caching technology. On top of that, we are going to enable Intel management technology, and this is going to be the richest platform that we have ever introduced in mobile technology."

"The first enhancement going from Centrino Duo to Santa Rosa is increasing the bus speed from 667 megahertz to 800 megahertz. This is going to significantly increase the bandwidth within the CPU and the chip set. This, on top of the fact that we have a leading edge chip set microarchitecture, allows us to increase throughput to memory, reduce latency and results in much higher CPU performance." Today's MacBook Pro's use a frontside bus and memory at 667MHz.
"Another wonderful feature that we have on Santa Rosa is really enhancing the graphics and the video capabilities of this product. Crestline, our next generation mobile chipset, really delivers richness, realism, life-like effects in high definition playback."

In Perlmutter's summary of the Santa Rosa platform he pointed to it having performance enhancements, active power, power reduction and better battery life resulted from going all the way down in sleep mode to a way that you don't have to wake up the CPU."

Now let's dig a little deeper, shall we.

Santa Rosa Introduces NAND

The next step according to Perlmutter is "improving platform technology. It's really attacking the I/O side of the business. And this has been neglected for many years because this technology was focusing, very much, on getting it smaller and much higher capacity. And we see today, 70 or 100 gigabytes of disk, but they're not any faster or significantly faster, from what they have been ten years ago.

"Putting a NAND based disk flash really does some wonders to your performance. It gives you 2X faster application load and application execution. It gives you 2X faster resume from hibernation on your notebook. And like many good things, it comes also with low power, because it really eliminates many of the accesses in getting the disk spindles really spinning around and create some power."
Unfortunately the limited demo of Santa Rosa on a notebook was using Microsoft's Vista, but the basic message was loud and clear: Santa Rosa will provide workstation performance on a notebook, especially in respect to capturing and working with High-Def video imagery and photography which is a key focus of Apple's.

Santa Rosa Introduces 802.11n

"I first want to touch on our Kedron, 802.11a/g/n technology," stated Perlmutter. "This is supporting or compatible with the draft of 802.11n standard. It delivers 300 Megabits per second. This is 5X throughput and close to 30X better than our first generation Centrino platform."

"This is really 2X3 MIMO technology, two transmitters, three receivers that we have that really enhances the signal and does a lot of [wandering] digital processing to really be able to transmit and receive these wonderful rates."
Perlmutter went on to announce that Intel will integrate Nokia's HSDPA wideband CDMA technology to deliver wireless WAN solution inside the Santa Rosa platform.

WiMAX: The Crown Jewel

While the Santa Rosa platform will provide a great interim wireless solution, most await the arrival of WiMAX. Perlmutter began this segment by stating "but the jewel of the crown in wireless connectivity is WiMAX. This is what we see as the global high speed data wireless connection. We're going to have mobile WiMAX cards that support all of the ranges of frequencies from 2.5 to 3.3 to 3.5 GHz really supporting wireless spectrums available in the countries in the world. This is supported by our Ofer-R radio that really supports all of these frequencies and we're going to take this technology into the future supporting next generation WiMAX and we're also going to integrate Wi-Fi and WiMAX together in our 2008 platforms to really deliver WiMAX into the masses…"

"And, last but not least, we have started with Rosedale our fixed WiMAX technology. This is going to deliver and be able to allow and support 802.16d. We're going to launch a new product, Rosedale 2, which is supporting dynamic switching between 802.16d, which is the fixed WiMAX into the 802.16e which is the mobile WiMAX. This is going to be done by a software release. And service providers who are building fixed WiMAX networks today, could switch later on, their system, their network and also the CPs built around Rosedale 2 by a software release over the year to support the mobile solution. And this network could later on support Centrino mobile technology."

Closing Thoughts

While there's little doubt that we'll see Apple's 2007 notebooks taking full advantage of all of the new features that Intel's new Santa Rosa platform will provide, I still say that most mobile warriors around the globe are drooling for the day when WiMAX finally arrives in true mobile form and fully integrated into notebooks in 2008 as Perlmutter presented.

Yet, as some of you may have recently read, there's been some talk over at Motorola that they're skipping the 802.16d WiMAX phase altogether and leaping right to 802.16e by early to mid 2007. So if you consider the fact that Intel is almost a year ahead of schedule in delivering their new quad-core CPU's to market, you have to wonder if Intel is likewise planning to stun the market by rolling out their newly integrated 802.16e solutions by the time that IDF Fall 2007 rolls around. Yet perhaps that could be just a little hopeful thinking
At the end of the day, it's Perlmutter's characterization of Mobile WiMAX being the Crown Jewel of wireless connectivity that stood out most. It truly captured how both the industry and the computer enthusiast alike view the importance of this breakthrough technology.

In my opinion, if we're ever to see a communications based iPod-like device from Apple come to market, then 802.16e is certainly one of the keys in seeing that come to be. In the shorter term however, we could always look forward to Apple's hardware line-up, including their new iTV device, adopting fixed WiMAX in the second half of 2007.

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