Intel isn’t the first to think of the idea of integrating power-saving technology throughout a device. One Laptop per Child (OLPC), the nonprofit that builds inexpensive, rugged laptops meant for children in the developing world, set the standard with a gadget that consumes one-tenth of the power of a conventional laptop. Granted, OLPC’s laptop doesn’t have the capabilities of consumer machines, but it does show what is technically achievable.
There are definitely advantages to this systemic approach, says Seth Sanders, a professor of electrical engineering and computer science at the University of California, Berkeley. “Comprehensively looking through the system at all of the different pieces that are cycling unnecessarily provides an opportunity [for power savings],” he says.
Allison says that the company is already talking with operating-system vendors to explore what it would take to integrate this approach into software. And as a major contributor to the new USB 3.0 standards, Intel will have some say in how much power forthcoming USB devices will use. In addition, Allison says, the company is trying to secure deals with display and hardware vendors. “This won’t happen in the next three years,” he says. But he suspects that pieces of the new power-management system will find their way into laptops within five years.