WiFi Chips Competition

WSJ looks at Intel’s WiFi strategy, and where it stands vis-a-vis some of its competitors like Broadcom and Atheros.

Though relatively new to communications, Intel hopes to exploit its investments in manufacturing technology to pack more features on new wireless chips. The company, for example, has discussed new chips that can automatically seek out different portions of the communication spectrum, adapting by changes in software. By avoiding the need for chips tailored to specific frequencies, such flexible technology could make it easier for cellular phones to use Wi-Fi networks to quickly move digital photographs or other large files.

Patrick Gelsinger, Intel’s chief technology officer, says the key to such advances will be its ability to manufacture chips with multiple chunks of special-purpose circuitry for processing tasks in parallel. “We think that is the breakthrough that will really make software-defined radios work,” Mr. Gelsinger said.

The same basic concept — packing many separate brains on a single piece of silicon — is also increasingly important to Intel’s core microprocessor business. Among other things, Intel is expected this week to give the first details of a follow-on to its Itanium chip line, code-named Tanglewood, that may have up to 16 built-in processors when it is delivered in 2006.

But Intel is behind competitors such as International Business Machines Corp. and Sun Microsystems Inc. in delivering multiprocessor technologies. It is also behind rivals in Wi-Fi.

One must give credit to Intel for having jumpstarted the WiFi boom, with its Centrino and “Unwire” branding.

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