Intel Marshaling Forces For Home Invasion - InformationWeek

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Intel Marshaling Forces For Home Invasion

The chipmaker is expected to promote the interoperability of various home networks using Microsoft's Universal Plug and Play technology and 802.11 wireless technology.

SAN MATEO, Calif.--Intel will reveal details of a cross-industry initiative on home networking at the Intel Developer Forum next month. The company is expected to promote the interoperability of various home networks using Microsoft's Universal Plug and Play technology, 802.11 wireless technology, and wireline links such as 1394.

Intel would not release details on the effort or say which PC and consumer original equipment manufacturers are supporting it. "This is a cross-industry group focused on interoperability," says Frank Spindler, VP of Intel's corporate technology group. The Fall Intel Developer Forum will be Sept. 9 to 12 at the Convention Center in San Jose, Calif.

To date, PC makers have coalesced around 802.11b as a preferred home networking technology because of its rapidly falling prices, reasonable 1- to 2-Mbps bandwidth, and relative ease of installation. Consumer companies, however, have generally favored wired 1394 links, which provide the hundreds of megabits per second needed for streaming media and have content-protection schemes in place. The gulf between the two camps presents "issues we will clearly address," says Anthony Ambrose, a director in Intel's communications group.

The Intel initiative comes at a time when consumer-focused companies such as Philips Semiconductors and Pioneer Corp. have expressed eagerness to leverage the falling prices of 802.11b for home networking.

"We've been pretty public about the need to accelerate broadband network adoption and accelerating the growth of the digital home" as one way to do that, Ambrose says. At the Spring Intel Developer Forum, Louis Burns, general manager of Intel's desktop platforms group, said the company would spearhead work toward interoperable home networks.

The initiative is perhaps the broadest of several announcements in the pipeline for next month's Intel Developer Forum.

Intel will detail new efforts in networked storage, rolling out a variety of products for network-attached storage and storage area networks, including silicon that supports the emerging iSCSI standard with TCP offload features. Separately, Intel will disclose modifications to its Xscale processor that enhance its wireless networking capabilities.

The company will also reveal new backers for its emerging PCI Express interconnect scheme, presumably major communications original equipment manufacturers supporting the Advanced Switching variant of the interconnect under development for use in routers and switches. Other presentations will detail the quality-of-service and multimedia underpinnings of Express and give an update on progress defining so-called revolutionary form factors for Express devices. Express is a gigabit-class serial technology meant to succeed PCI.

"Our sessions on PCI Express have been some of the best-attended sessions at IDF," Spindler says.

Intel is also expected to provide some news on a number of its processors, including projections for its first 3-GHz Pentium 4 chip; details about Banias, its first processor designed specifically for notebook computers; and information on Madison, the mid-2003 follow-up to its current 64-bit Itanium 2 CPU for servers and workstations.

On the final day, the company will reprise its focus on R&D efforts, a popular track started at last spring's forum. Intel will discuss its plans for 90-nm process technology slated for introduction next year and will provide a progress report on its lab work in extreme ultraviolet lithography, nanotechnology, silicon photonics, and networks of sensors.

At the conference, Intel will unveil a draft specification for Serial ATA II, a new variant of the hard-disk drive interface. It will also release version 3.0 of the Accelerated Graphics Processor interconnect for implementing AGP 8x links to graphics chips and cards. It's expected to be the last iteration of AGP before a transition to PCI Express.

The Fall Intel Developer Forum will devote an entire track to Infiniband, an interconnect that has been under assault since Intel canceled its Infiniband product plans and startup Banderacom Inc. announced significant layoffs. "Infiniband is clearly something that's important for us in the data center to cluster servers," Ambrose says.

Intel is trying out new international venues for the Intel Developer Forum and plans to hold its first conferences in Moscow and Mumbai, India, this fall. Intel held conferences in six locations last spring, gathering more than 10,000 developers. About a third of the attendees come from the communications industry.

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