Sunday, August 19, 2007

Are the OEMs to Blame for Intel's Slower UMPC Processors?

There's been a lot said about Intel's new A100 (600MHz) and A110 (800MHz) processors. It seems Intel's answer to demands for more battery life was to give manufacturers the ability to make slower machines. Some end-users see this as the only logical way to accomplish the goal; for others (including yours truly), this decision is incomprehensible. How is it helping, if I have a little more battery life, but it takes even longer to send email, close a help desk ticket or submit my time/mileage?

For one thing, these new machines are pretty much going to have to run Windows Vista. I thought we all understood that a pleasant Vista experience required more than XP. Not just more hard drive space or more memory, but more everything. I have seen absolutely nothing to indicate that Office 2007 is less resource-intensive than its predecessor; in fact, I've spent a fair amount of time troubleshooting performance issues since we started implementing it in the enterprise for which I work. Now, as I compose this, I'm on a 1GHz Tablet PC with 768 megabytes of memory, and it has been running Vista since 2005 and Office 2007 since, uh, I forget. It BSODed while my friend was using ArtRage yesterday, but it mostly does ok.

My Ultra-Mobile PC, the Asus R2H, sports a Celeron-900 processor,and also has Vista on it. It's a bit sluggish and has driver-related issues I've mentioned before, but it's mosty doable. Still, I'm ready for something new. Because of my experiences with this slower processor, you can be sure I will not be allowing anyone to take me on a trip further into the past; I have done this for UMPC once, now it's UMPC's turn to come forward with me.

Try to see it from my point of view. There are those who say we can't do better right now, but I recall the posts from people who were using full-sized Electrovaya tablets in 2003 and getting up to 6 hours of battery life; why should I think manufacturers shouldn't be able to wrangle more out of smaller screens four years later? Sure, you can argue that bigger devices can have bigger batteries, but let's look at the Fujitsu LifeBook P1510; in 2005, I witnessed that little guy getting over five hours of battery life with the extended battery, and the current model, the P1610, is doing the same, I'm guessing, since Fujitsu claims up to 7 hours of battery life for the successor. Try to forgive my skepticism, then, when I'm told that in order to get the same kind of battery life I have with my R2H, we have to use processors that are much slower!

As I considered this and posted my thoughts to one of the forums where the debates rage in several threads, I began to wonder if all the anger/absolution should be directed toward Intel. I'm beginning to think that they shouldn't even have to make a slower processor. If Electrovaya and Fujitsu can achieve what they have with what Intel already had on the market, why can't the other manufacturers? I could be totally way off base, here, but I think we need to call out the OEMs, not Intel.

There have been a bunch of scooter and car analogies out there in the debates, but I have another. Intel's processors are like tests. Electrovaya and Fujitsu seem to be scoring high, but Intel is having to issue the new A1xx tests, so that the kids who don't study as hard can still pass. I think we all know what happens once such kids enter the real world and are expected to contribute to society.