Intel has expanded its networking portfolio with wireless LAN, 10-Gigabit Ethernet and Gigabit Ethernet products, as the company seeks to gain a foothold in new and emerging networking markets.
At the Networld+Interop 2002 show in Las Vegas, Intel unveiled a dual-band wireless LAN access point and showed an internally developed dual-band wireless LAN chipset. The company hopes the two products will help it push Ethernet as a viable wireless networking technology.
ContextIntel expects these networking market segments to grow and become a sizeable portion of its overall business. It wants its networking and communications products to counter its mainstream microprocessor business so that going forward it doesn't have all its eggs in one basket. It also aims to leverage development across its departments so that it can maximize its R&D investment.
So far it hasn't done too well. Its communications group has been losing money for over a year, and Intel was forced to quietly lay off people in the unit and refocus its efforts on fewer, more strategic markets in the last several months.
It does have a great deal of experience in Ethernet and networking, where it has been developing products for over 20 years. It expects to see Gigabit Ethernet as a standard feature on the PC desktop in the near future.
All these networking technologies are expected to be high-growth areas, and if Intel can bring its manufacturing prowess to bear it could be able to compete not only on technology but also on price.
The PRO/Wireless 5000 LAN Dual Band Access Point supports both 802.11a and 802.11b connections simultaneously on the same device. It is targeted at developers and customers that already have a 802.11b network and want to move to the faster speed but not throw away their existing investments.
Intel also announced the availability of six new Gigabit Ethernet adapters, including dual-port adapters for servers and an adapter for desktop PCs, priced the same as the Fast Ethernet versions. Intel also unveiled the 82597EX 10-Gigabit Ethernet controller, a single-chip implementation targeted at the enterprise market, as well as six Gigabit Ethernet adapters, including a dual-port adapter for servers.
The opportunities here are great. Market research firm Gartner/Dataquest predicts that by 2005, 90% of all PCs will be equipped for wireless LANs. In addition, it predicts that the Gigabit Ethernet semiconductor market alone will have $2.7bn in revenue by 2005.
With opportunity comes competition. It is almost easier to say who is not trying to compete in these spaces than who is. Right now the wireless LAN market is dominated by a wide range of smaller companies that would have a tough time fighting Intel. The Ethernet market, however, is another story. PMC-Sierra, Broadcom, Tality, Altera and numerous others are all competing for a piece of the pie. Many have been in this market for years and have helped it expand every bit as much as Intel has.
ConclusionIntel seems to be on the fast track toward integrating the diverse technologies. Its combined 802.11a and 802.11b chipset and its single-chip 10Gb controller show it has achieved greater integration than its rivals. And integration makes it easier and sometimes cheaper for developers to incorporate the technology into final products.
The company also has a leg up in the move to the desktop since it makes 80% of the microprocessors, as well as a number of the motherboards, for the leading hardware companies. Intel has just announced that Dell will use its Gigabit Ethernet controller as a standard network connection on the motherboard in future OptiPlex desktop PCs.
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