Intel Fine Tunes Centrino

The No. 1 chipmaker fixes its VPN issues and gives its wireless platform a speed bump and a security adjustment to accommodate upcoming designs.

Intel Monday said it is refreshing its Centrino brand of mobile chipsets with faster processors and better security to deal with an increased demand for new designs. The company also issued a way to fix a bug that crashes when used with a virtual private network (VPN).

Introduced in March 2003, the Centrino chipset is built around three components: the Intel 855 Chipset Family, the Intel PRO/Wireless 2100 Network Connection and the Intel Pentium M processor.

Now the Santa Clara, Calif.-based chip making giant said vendors can upgrade their upcoming Centrino-based models from the original 900 MHz and 1.0 GHz speed to ones with a new processor operating at 1.70 GHz, a low-voltage 1.20 GHz processor or the ultra-low-voltage part running at 1.0GHz. The chips are priced at $694, $341 and $319 respectively.

The VPN problem was highlighted last week after Nortel Networks issued a statement saying a bug it discovered could force a notebook to crash and show the dreaded Window's "Blue Screen of Death." Intel responded saying the error could have been caused by an incompatibility issue between the software and an application that controls its Intel Pro Wireless 2100 module the processor. The chipmaker immediately issued work-arounds to its vendors to shut off certain features.

Later this month, Intel said it will release updated networking software to permanently fix the problem. The company said its update for the Intel PRO/Wireless 2100 network connection (Intel PRO Network Connection software V7.1), provides support for the latest enhancements to wireless LAN security such as Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA).

In addition, Intel said PC makers should certify the software release provided for Cisco Compatible Extensions -- such as LEAP and CKIP (Cisco Key Integrity Protocol) -- on notebooks through the Cisco Compatible program. These enhancements improve the authentication and encryption of wireless LAN connections.

On the adoption side, Intel said it is pleased with Centrino's progress. Currently, there are 58 different models of Centrino shipping compared to the 34 versions when the heralded chipset first came out. The company said it expects upwards of 125 designs to be available for sale by the end of the year. Intel says it is seeing vendors put its chipsets in systems ranging in style from tablet PCs to thin-and-light designs with large screens to ultra-mobile systems that weigh less than three pounds. In some cases these mobile systems can achieve greater than five hours of battery life on a single charge.

The company also says it has verified the compatibility of Intel Centrino mobile technology with more than 14,000 hotspots worldwide, which is more than the 10,000 it had originally estimated.

"From PC makers to service providers to airports, hotels and retail locations, we are seeing strong acceptance for Intel Centrino mobile technology," Intel Mobile Platforms Group vice president Anand Chandrasekher said in a statement.






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