Intel Delays New Mobile Chips, Chipsets

Intel pushed back the launch of its Centrino 2 mobile processors and the first chipsets for the platform, code-named Montevina, from June to mid-July, an Intel spokesperson said Tuesday. The full platform won't be released until early August, the Intel spokesperson added.

It wasn't immediately clear how the delay would affect Intel, which hasn't suffered a major setback on a product launch in some time, but on Tuesday there was a growing buzz in the technology press that Advanced Micro Devices and Nvidia could be beneficiaries.

AMD, Sunnyvale, Calif., is scheduled to launch its own notebook platform, code-named Puma, in just a few days and will have the freshest mobile product on the block for longer than it had any right to expect, while Nvidia, Santa Clara, Calif., could enjoy a boost in sales of its chipsets for Intel processors as a result of the delay, analysts said. Both Intel rivals could see some pickup in sales of discrete graphics as well.

Montevina, Intel's fifth-generation Centrino notebook platform, was originally scheduled for release at the June 3-7 Computex event in Taipei, Taiwan. But now Intel has targeted July 14 for the release of the new Montevina processors and discrete graphics chipsets, said Bill Kircos, head of Santa Clara-based Intel's consumer and enterprise communications group.

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Kircos said technical issues with the Intel 4 Series Express chipset, code-named Cantiga, and a paperwork setback on the basic Wi-Fi chip included in the newly branded Centrino 2 platform means those portions of the platform won't be released until early August.

The admission confirms reporting by American Technology Research analyst Doug Freedman last Friday, who said Intel had "a misstep in the completion of FCC certification" for support of the 802.11n Wi-Fi standard and, separately, that the new chipset's integrated graphics were causing failures on OEM notebooks.

"We ran into two issues prelaunch. We had to rescreen the integrated graphics chipsets and we didn't dot all the 'i's' and cross all the 't's' on the certifications for the wireless products," Kircos said.

"We apologize for any problems this may cause with our partners and customers," he added.

The processors that form the foundation of Montevina are its improved socket P mobile chips, second-generation Intel Core 2 Duo 45nm chips that bring the previous generation's front-side bus from 800 MT/s to 1066 and reportedly will range in clock speed from 2.26GHz to 3.06GHz.

Consuming between 25W and 29W, the new chips promise longer battery life than their predecessors, the 34W Merom and first-generation Penryn chips featured in the current Centrino package, code-named Santa Rosa.

The Intel 4 Series Express chipset features several improvements over the Mobile 965 Express chipset in the original Santa Rosa platform and the Santa Rosa refresh Intel debuted in January of this year. The new boards feature higher-bandwidth GMA X4500 integrated graphics, native HDCP support, improved RAM support for DDR2 and newly built-in support of DDR3.

On the wireless side, the Montevina platform offers module options for a mini-PCIe Wi-Fi adapter and add-on WiMAX card or, in an industry first, Intel's combination Wi-Fi/WiMAX Link 5150/5350 PCIe adapter, code-named Echo Peak.

Kircos said the professional version of Montevina, branded Centrino 2 vPro, would also be released in August. That version of the platform will carry the Active Management Technology features like out-of-band system management that has made vPro desktop and notebook platforms popular with in-house system administrators and MSPs alike.

"We just want to get the volume up as best we can before we do a big splashy launch. The vPro [version of Montevina] was supposed to come along after [the initial release of Centrino 2] anyway," Kircos said.

The Rich Creek 2 platform for whitebook builders, featuring the Cantiga chipset, remains in its "ecosystem prep phase" and is limited to just a handful of larger system builders. The official release of Centrino 2 is marked in Intel road map documentation as the beginning of the "pilot phase" for the Rich Creek 2 program, which appears to have suffered a setback as well.

It's also looking as if Canadian notebook builder Eurocom may have jumped the gun with news issued last week that it had launched the "world's first Montevina 15.4-inch high-end notebook."