Notebook Vendors Rally Around Pentium II

Vendors are counting on the Mobile Pentium II system to become widely adopted before its predecessor, the Tillamook series, is phased out by the end of the year.

At Intel's Mobile Pentium II announcement last week in Santa Clara, California, notebook vendors lined up to show their eager support of the new chip, but some end-users are taking a much more cautious approach.

Concerns over the trade-off between a 20 percent to 30 percent gain in performance and a 30 percent loss in battery life has IT managers doubting the need for the chip.

"We definitely have a priority for that battery life," said Brian Jaffe, director of network and client services at Bantam Doubleday Dell, in New York, and a member of the InfoWorld Corporate Advisory Board. "Most of our users are just not requiring that much CPU power. They're doing mail and office suites, not full-blown database queries. They want the battery life on planes."

However, vendors are counting on the Mobile Pentium II system to become widely adopted before its predecessor, the Tillamook series, is phased out by the end of the year, according to one OEM.

Some vendors question the validity of the end-user concerns over battery life and feel that computing power will always drive purchasing decisions.

"Users say they want battery life," said Michael Stinson, senior director of product marketing at Toshiba, in Irvine, California. "But when faced with getting more power vs. battery life, they choose the power."

Vendors and users alike are concerned with the rate of change at which Intel has paced the industry. As clock speeds increase, battery life decreases, and Intel is no stranger to the inverse relationship.

For its part, Intel is working on solutions to the problem that involve another shrinkage of the Pentium II chip from 0.25 microns to 0.18 microns. When Intel shrank the Pentium MMX chip from 0.35 microns to 0.25 microns to make the Tillamook, it significantly reduced power consumption and thermal output, making life easier on notebook vendors.

"The pace has been brisk; things have moved quickly and in some ways its a good thing and in some ways it's troubling," said Wayne Wesley, product manager at Hewlett-Packard's Mobile Computing Division, in Palo Alto, California. "We hear the customers saying, 'slow down.'"

But for the near future, the industry will continue to move at Intel's pace, allowing other important component technologies to lag behind processor speed.

"We are on the treadmill and spend most of our time working on heat-dissipation issues for next-generation processors," said a representative at one OEM, who requested anonymity. "It is the single toughest design challenge we face. But we would still rather see notebook chip speeds reach parity with desktop speeds. It's what the user wants."

Intel Corp., in Santa Clara, California, can be reached at +1 (408) 765-8080 or http://www.intel.com/.

****[Note to editors: This article appears in the April 6 issue of InfoWorld and may not appear online or in print prior to this date.]

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