Intel has launched a dual-core notebook chip for high-end users, continuing an effort to defend its share of the fast-growing notebook PC market against Advanced Micro Devices (AMD), provoking a variety of channel responses.
Intel is selling the new Core 2 Extreme X7800 processor to PC vendors now, and claims it will reach store shelves within two weeks, boosting performance for the hard-core gamers and digital artists who now use notebooks powered by Intel's Core Duo T2600.
The company has encouraged vendors to push even faster performance by opening the chip's speed protection locks, allowing them to overclock the processor for even faster operation.
Some video game fans seek top performance by running chips beyond their rated speed limits on desktop PCs. The practice is less common on notebook PCs, which are usually optimised for the best battery endurance.
For Protac International boss, Gary Jeng, it will be at least four weeks before it can start turning out machines as the bare bones notebooks it will drop the chips into have yet to leave Taiwan.
"They'll be a newer design, with an independent graphics chip but we just can't get them yet," he said.
By concentrating on notebooks, Intel is aiming at the sweet spot of the PC market. Vendors have seen sparse growth in desktop PC shipments in recent years, increasing by only single-digit percentages in 2005, 2006 and forecasts for 2007. But demand for notebooks in soaring, with global notebook shipments showing increases of 35.9 per cent in 2005, 28.4 per cent in 2006 and an estimated 25.3 per cent in 2007, according to the analyst firm, iSuppli.
But even healthy sales of notebooks won't entice Plus Corporation managing director, Nigel Fernandes to go building notebooks based on the latest Intel technologies anytime soon.
"There's just not a lot of interest from our customers in bare bones systems," he said. "Every couple of years Intel tries to encourage it but with razor-thin margins, it's so much easier for us to sell multinational brands."
Fernandes said it would be concentrating its efforts on high-end gaming desktops and servers instead.
In May, Intel made another effort to push sales of its mobile chips by launching its Santa Rosa bundle of mobile processors and chipsets, an upgrade to its popular Centrino platform. AMD quickly responded by announcing later that month that it would use a new mobile processor called Griffin as the basis of a collection of processors and chipsets code-named Puma, expected to reach markets in the middle of 2008.
Intel now hopes to regain the initiative by expanding its Core 2 Extreme brand from high-end desktops to high-end notebooks. It is selling the 2.6GHz Core 2 Extreme X7800 notebook chip for $US851.
Pioneer boss, Jeff Li, said interest in the new dual-core notebook chips was high.
"Santa Rosa has been good so far and I'd say there's been a 50 per cent increase in enquiries because of it," he said. "There's some good technology in there and I think more than 70 per cent of the notebook market will be based on Santa Rosa a year from now."