Centrino Adds A, Not G
However, the company isn't planning to start shipping Centrino chipsets supporting the new 802.11g (54-Mbit/s over 2.4GHz) standard in volume until next year, despite the fact that market research suggests that g gear is likely to be the fastest growing sector of the market this year (see Dell'Oro: 802.11 Kit up 1%).
Centrino currently only supports the original b spec -- lagging behind rival offerings from the likes of Agere Systems (NYSE: AGR.A), Atheros Communications, and Broadcom Corp. (Nasdaq: BRCM), vendors that all now have products that support g.
Intel originally said it would come out with a dualmode a and b chipset at the end of last year -- there was even a space for the radio on the first Centrino b chipset (see Intel Plots Home-Grown 802.11). Intel sourced the b radio components from Philips Semiconductors and Texas Instruments Inc. (NYSE: TXN) but decided to build its own 5GHz a radio, which is what is thought to be one cause of the initial delay in lauching a dualmode chipset (see Intel's Radio Follies).
The a/b chipset required "additional engineering" according to Intel spokesperson, Dan Francisco. "You have the engineering part of it and the validation and verification of the entire platform. When you ship in the kind of volumes that we do you have to ensure that everything works together," he says.
Francisco didn't exactly confirm the July launch date, but he didn't quite deny it either: "We've said publicly we'll ship in the summer... July's in the summer isn't it?"
Asian Website DigiTimes quotes Eric Jao, Intel's Asia/Pacific marketing manager, as stating a potential price of US$35 for the a/b module, well above the $20 802.11b Wireless Pro cards Intel currently ships. Intel is still using b radio elements from Philips and TI on this version of the platform.
The firm is developing its first homegrown 2.4GHz homegrown radio for the g version of Centrino, which will start shipping to vendors in the fourth quarter of this year, but won't be on the market until 2004. This will be followed by a chipset that supports all three of the available flavors of 802.11 in the first half of next year.
Some say as many as 500 employees are working on 802.11 at the company.
Bob Wheeler, senior analyst at The Linley Group thinks that not having g "throws a major wrench in the Centrino branding effort." (See Centrino: Building the Brand.)
He does not rule out the prospect of Intel putting out a stopgap g product before next year -- possibly using radio components sourced from Intersil Corp. (Nasdaq: ISIL). "The information I had is that maybe Intel is scrambling to do something with g before 2004."
However, Intel's Francisco's insists that the chipmaker will go it alone for g. "It'll be all ours," he says.
— Justin Springham, Senior Editor, Europe, and Dan Jones, Senior Editor, Unstrung