The Market Segments
Business users will definitely want to welcome the Centrino with open arms. Two of the biggest challenges a vendor faced when manufacturing a notebook have always been form-factor and battery life. Similar challenges are also faced by mobile road warriors. Corporate users who frequently travel around the globe will also come to appreciate a Centrino notebook's long battery life, instant wireless connectivity at any hotspots, and of course the size of such notebooks (dependent on vendor's design).
On the consumer end, it'll probably take a while longer for them to embrace the Centrino Mobile Technology. Not all consumer-based users see the need for wireless capabilities on their notebooks yet. And market research have shown that such users, unlike the business users, are more likely to use their notebooks plugged to a power outlet at home. Likewise, these users will probably have their broadband modem wired-connected. Lastly, Centrino-based notebooks are priced in the premium range. So those in the consumer segments may put their purchase of such notebooks on hold, or even look for other more powerful platforms based on the Pentium 4-M processor.
Beginning of the Wireless Age
Not since the classic Pentium processor have Intel succeeded in creating a new breed of processors from the ground up in the shape of the Pentium-M processor tailored for the Centrino Mobile platform. With Centrino Mobile Technology, vendors are now able to design slimmer and longer battery-lasting notebooks without compromising performance. But how users get used to the fact that Intel's newest mobile processor will not be able to outperform the Pentium 4-M remains to be seen though. And it'll take some time for Intel to educate the masses that with mobility, it's not always the performance that counts, but the overall package of performance and battery life. This will be especially difficult in the consumer segment, who are also likely to get confused between a Centrino/Pentium-M and a Pentium 4-M notebook.
The overall success of the Centrino, however, will depend on Intel's strategy to make wireless LAN popular globally. We have already witnessed several active efforts initiated by Intel to push WLAN access in popular areas. So once people can use their notebooks anywhere to connect to the Internet, battery life will become an important issue, since not many would want to sacrifice their newly earned freedom for a regular trip to the next power outlet. In addition, it wouldn't be wise to carry extra batteries as such an extra burden is never part of being a mobile road warrior.
To add to that, Intel still have a long road ahead of making wireless LAN as transparent as possible - at least in Singapore and in this region. For instance, Starhub is currently the only first-phase wireless ISP provider. So with SingTel (another telecom operator) being drafted in to provide wireless hotspots around the island as well, it remains to be seen if Centrino users will have the freedom to access wireless services seamlessly across various ISPs using a single login account.
According to analysts, notebook PCs are becoming the fastest growing segment in today's PC market, with more than 45 million business laptops becoming Wi-Fi-capable by 2004. So Intel must have made the right decision to strike these two birds with one stone with the Centrino Mobile Technology. If Centrino becomes a success (and who will not agree?), we'll soon see a new dawn in the Wireless Age. When this happens, the mobile computing landscape will change and it will not only affect the way people use their mobile PCs, but we will also see a whole new mobile computing lifestyle that dictates how we live, communicate and run our businesses.