'Performance per watt is the mantra behind Centrino Duo'

DQW Bureau
16 Feb 2006

Intel's recently launched NAPA platform, driven by the dual core
32-bit Centrino Duo processor, is touted as the big leap in mobile computing.
This processor is expected to outperform the current Sonoma platform driven by
the single core mobile Centrino by 68 percent, and reduce power consumption by
28 percent. Anand Chandrasekhar, VP & Director, Sales and Marketing
Group, Intel Corpo­ration, who was in India for the official launch, 
spoke about the technology and strategic enhancements that have gone into
Centrino Duo.

The launch of the dual
core Centrino Duo processor is touted by Intel as a big leap, as big as the
launch of the Pentium in 1993. How would you explain the significance of a dual
core processor?

Two CPUs can obviously give you maximum efficiency, especially if while
construc­ting a dual core processor one takes care to look at the thermals and
battery life concerns. A dual core proces­sor is much more efficient in
delivering performance, and this was precisely the reason why Intel decided to
move in the direction of dual core a few years back. The bulk of applications
today, including even common OS like Windows XP that are opti­mized for Pentium
IV, would run more efficiently on a dual core processor. All of our processors
designed hence­forth, for every device including mobile devices, desktops and
servers, will be effectively dual core since it is a much more efficient way of
delivering performance.

Not only would dual core thus
result in significant performance improvement in terms of applications, it also
helps in looking at Moore's Law with a different vision. According to
Moore's law, if processor perfor­mance is map­ped over a ten-year period,
the last four years would show doubling of performance and next four years too
would show similar doubling. What we are able to do with dual core is not just
double the performance over the next four years by increasing the clock speed,
but achieve so by increasing the number of cores. This is a significant change
since the former, or any similar type of architecture, would have meant that
with doubling of per­formance thermals too would have gone up. By moving to a
dual core archi­tecture, we have put a lid on this-now with a fixed thermal
envelop we can deliver maximum performance.


Anand Chandrasekhar 

VP & Director

(Sales and Marketing Group),Intel Corporation

AMD has already launched
the 64 bit Turion proces­sors for notebooks. So, what was the rationale behind
laun­ching 32-bit dual core Centrino Duo now, consi­dering that the 64-bit
dual core Merom processors are lined up for 2H 06? How would you react to the
perception that Intel is not vocal on 64-bit processors like AMD?

Intel's product design and development is dictated by what the market
wants. On servers, the market clearly needs 64-bit, and so we went for that.
Ditto with the desktop environment, where too we went for the same architecture
that we are using for servers. In mobile devices like laptops, the market does
not really need 64 bit processors. For 64-bit, one needs to be able to address
4GB of memory. Find me one laptop today that has more than 1GB of memory. The
reason is very simple-it is a question of the battery life. If you add so much
memory into the battery, it will suck because of the additional memory in it. On
a notebook, people care about battery life much more than they do about
computing power.

Intel, therefore, prioritizes
about the battery life and the laptop performance equiva­lent of desktop, and,
accor­dingly, we decided that dual core is the right strategy to go with for
now. This does not, however, mean that we are ignoring 64-bit, but that we will
go for it at the right time. And to do it right, we are going to focus on making
sure that battery life does not suffer.

For Centrino Duo to suc­ceed,
it is important to have a proper ecosystem in terms of notebook designs from
various manu­facturers as well as applications deve­loped for the techno­logy.
Also, it needs to be fully functional with Vista, the next Windows OS. The pre­vious
version Sonoma did not have adequate sup­port as expected. How are things
different this time?

We would not say that Sonoma lacked in ecosystem support, since when we
launched it a year back there were 150 designs already. However, contrast this
with Centrino Duo and obviously we see tremendous interest in the product, as
there are about 230 designs that we are going to go to market with. To put in
perspective, the first Centrino version was supported by 33 designs. And even if
Centrino Duo is not 64-bit, it will be sup­porting Vista as and when it is
commercially available. In fact, because of dual core there will be performance
gain in Vista.

One of Intel's key
initiatives in designing mobile pro­cessors has been the Common Building Blocks
(CBB) that sought to stan­dardize key compo­nents, including displays, drives,
batteries and adapters. How would you explain the rationale behind the CBB

The CBB program was started in 2004 when we discovered that there is a cost
bias on a fully manufactured notebook system, in comparison to a desktop. This
cost bias was caused by things which we call “differentiation without a
difference” meaning that people were thinking them as features of the notebook
whereas actually they were not features.  For
example, let us take the standard 14-inch panel in which there is nothing
proprietary about the glass or the connector. Neither one of those added any
features to the notebook that consumers would notice. When we did an analysis,
we found that it was not only with the panel, but also the disk, battery
connectors, optical disk etc, and every manufacturer was involved in it.

It was then that we started
with the CBB program and now you have panels in different note­books, which are
interchangeable. The differentiation will come when the manufacturer selects the
intensity that they want in the panel since that is a specific user benefit
offered, and the consumer can select that on his own. After the CBB specs we
published, in 2005, many of the components that are CBB compliant started being
manufactured. With

Cen­trino Duo, we are effectively using CBB to help the notebook market as this
program is all about taking off some features which are not useful. We are
trying to get more ODMs in Taiwan to come within the CBB ambit.

What has been the role of
Intel's India development center in the overall R&D efforts on the
Centrino Duo?

Intel followed a shared design model for almost all the components of the
Centrino Duo platform codenamed NAPA. The processor codename Yonah was given in
Israel, and the develop­ment took place in the centers at Yakum in Israel and
Santa Clara, US. The work on the chipset codenamed Calistoga took place in
Bangalore and Folsom, US while that on the wireless module called Golan took
place in Haifa, Israel and San Diego, US.

The assignment given to the
Bangalore team when we started was to become experts in low power to facilitate
battery life from the chipset standpoint. The average power consumption is about
13 watts but to be able to increase that battery life, we needed this to be done
in 10-11 watts. For that the chipset needed to be much more intelligent in
managing things like display and other com­ponents on the system, as well as
power managed.

Prasanto K Roy and Rajneesh De

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