The PC industry is wasting little time getting in line behind Apple to use Intel's spiffy new notebook chip.
CNET News.com has learned that Lenovo and Fujitsu are in the process of putting together systems based on the special Core 2 Duo chip that Apple is using in the MacBook Air. The new laptops should be out shortly, according to sources familiar with the companies' plans, and will give customers a chance to see what the rest of the PC industry can do with the power-thrifty chips.
Representatives for Lenovo and Intel declined to comment, while a Fujitsu representative did not immediately return a call.
Apple asked Intel to design the special Core 2 Duo chip last year as it was putting together the design that would become the MacBook Air. The chip fits into a package that's significantly smaller than the garden-variety package Intel uses with its notebook chips, and it uses less power than the standard Core 2 Duo, allowing it to fit into the slim MacBook Air without melting the inside of the package or eating the battery.
While Apple got the scoop on that new chip--which, since the company asked Intel to build it, seems fair--Intel has other customers. After the MacBook Air was introduced at Macworld, Intel representatives said the chip would be offered to the rest of the PC industry if they were interested. And much of the technology used in the chip will become part of Intel's mainstream offerings when the Montevina platform is released later this year.
This is a chip for ultraportable notebooks, loosely defined as notebooks weighing 3 pounds or less. Those kinds of notebooks aren't for everyone, but they tend to appeal to the frequent business travelers that might already be Lenovo ThinkPad customers. Fujitsu might not be a household name in this country when it comes to PCs, but its LifeBook lineup of small notebooks and tablet PCs has been focused on small designs for several years.
The problem is that most of those notebooks use low-voltage or ultra-low-voltage versions of Intel's Core 2 Duo processors to fit into the tight spaces required by ultraportable designs. That takes a toll on processing power that could be avoided with the special Core 2 Duo chip. You'll still see sluggish performance with the special Core 2 Duo design compared to a regular Core 2 Duo chip, but not as much of a drop-off that would come along with the LV or ULV versions.
No details were available on the specifications that will come along with the new Lenovo and Fujitsu laptops, but they are expected to be out shortly. It will be interesting to see how the companies respond to the design gauntlet thrown down by Apple with the MacBook Air; they might not be able to duplicate the exact design, but they could offer features like an optical drive and a user-replaceable battery that may have some prospective MacBook Air customers hesitating before taking the plunge.
News.com's Erica Ogg in San Francisco contributed to this report.