SAN FRANCISCO (03/16/2000) - Frank Spindler is vice president of the Intel Corp. Architecture Business Group and director of marketing for its Mobile Computing Group. PC World recently quizzed him about SpeedStep, the future of mobile computing, and the speed races.
PCW: Today's fastest mobile chip is 650 MHz, and the top desktop is now 1 GHz.
Will they ever be equal?
SPINDLER: I think we'll see mobile maintain close to parity. But in the foreseeable future, you'll probably see differences comparable to where we are today. From a time standpoint, maybe a few months lag from desktop to mobile release; from a frequency standpoint, maybe a 15 to 20 percent lag. However, today's mobile PCs offer performance equal to or greater than 90 percent of the installed base of desktop systems.
PCW: Explain the importance of SpeedStep, which runs a notebook at top processor speed on AC power, and automatically switches to a lower speed on battery power.
SPINDLER: The critical benefit of SpeedStep is that we are delivering near-desktop-level performance, but we are not asking for any compromise in mobility from the standpoint of a battery life. Without SpeedStep we could put a faster processor in there, but it would erode the battery life of the system.
PCW: How fast will mobile PIIIs get this year?
SPINDLER: We're at the early stages of our .18 micron process technology with the Pentium III SpeedStep products, and there is a healthy amount of headroom in that technology for faster mobile processors. We expect to be at 750 MHz by the middle of this year, and at 850 MHz by the end of the year.
PCW: How will these faster megahertz chips enable notebooks?
SPINDLER: First, we are going to see the emergence of more capable operating systems and office suites, things like Windows 2000 that historically require better processor performance. We're also going to see more tasks operating simultaneously on notebooks. So you may be running an office application in the foreground, and in the background you have an Internet connection that's encrypting and decrypting information. I think you'll also see more advanced technologies over time, such as voice recognition.
PCW: What's up next for mobile computing, and how important is wireless technology?
SPINDLER: We think the implications of wireless for mobile computing are huge.
With Bluetooth technology, we will see a standardized mechanism for notebook PCs to communicate with other personal devices. An exciting example is a connection to a wireless phone. In the coming years, we will see broad deployment of very high bandwidth wireless phone networks. Think of an environment where your notebook has a Bluetooth radio link to your phone, which has a wide-area, high-bandwidth length that could be several hundred kilobytes per second. So the richest, most useful wireless Internet experience is going to be on a mobile PC.
PCW: What is Intel's stance on Transmeta and its proposed mobile products?
SPINDLER: We've always found that our best approach is to develop our strategies and execute to our strategies. For a long time we have had a focus on specific developments for mobile processors, developing those processors that supported both performance and mobility. Along with that, we have spent extensive effort in developing low-power technologies for our mobile processors. So we think we've focused our developments squarely on improving both performance and mobility, and we haven't really seen anything in other devices that works to improve in any real way on what we have already implemented and executed on our Pentium III SpeedStep products.