Intel's Centrino offers mobile users flexibility

Intel Corp.'s new mobile technology extends the battery life of notebook computers, allowing mobile PC users to stay connected to wireless local-area networks for longer periods without plugging into a phone jack or using wireless cards.

Although the technology gives mobile PC users more flexibility, concerns about security might be a speed bump that hinders government users from embracing the Intel technology, according to some industry analysts.

Intel's Centrino mobile technology, launched in March, brings together three components to maximize mobility: wireless network functions, a new mobile processor and related chipsets. Packaging the features in one brand allows mobile PC users to move toward thinner computers with extended battery life that can last more than five hours.

"If you think of this in terms of a trend, Centrino is a very important milestone," Intel spokesman Bill Calder said.

PC manufacturers are embracing the Centrino technology. For example, Centrino fits into IBM Corp.'s wireless strategy, which focuses on flexibility, ease of use, wireless performance and enhanced security, said Ron Sperano, IBM's program director for mobile market development.

Centrino "is a very good wireless technology coupled with a high-speed processor," Sperano said. "Now I can use wireless and still have a long battery life. What good is wireless technology if you still have to be plugged in?"

The Centrino package highlights a move by PC manufacturers to take into account the overall platform, said Shane Rau, a senior research analyst for IDC. "All of this is rolled into one big marketing pitch, and it's helping to define the essence of what is good mobile computing," he said. "Before, it was just performance; now it is wireless battery life. That's pretty significant."

Despite the recent increased attention paid to the benefits of Centrino technology, it might not be the solution for every notebook user, analysts said. Industry attempts to fortify wireless technology against cyberattacks and other intrusions are still in the early stages. For the technology to catch on in the government arena, this problem must be solved.

"In the government environment, security is at a premium, maybe more so than wireless and battery life," Rau said. "Government users are going to be concerned with that. They are not going to be able to take in Centrino without a great deal of forethought."

Alan Bechara, president of PC Mall Gov Inc., said the likely users for this technology would be government managers and executives who may be more mobile, but who also have a need for secure data. Although Intel's marketing concept is revolutionary, the wireless portion of the package is "middle of the road" and not as good as other company's solutions, he said.

"It's too soon to jump on the bandwagon," Bechara said. "When you factor in the other concerns, it may need an extra step before it's ready for prime time."

To address these issues, GTSI Corp. has created a security technology team to find ways to meet the tightest security restrictions, said Chris Pate, the company's senior manager of mobile and wireless technology. Working closely with Intel, GTSI officials are looking at their agility solution, which enables a secure environment during rapid IT deployment and can be expanded for use with Centrino technology, he said.


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