The world's top four laptop makers will soon be shipping fast draft 802.11n (Draft N) wireless systems, according to Broadcom.

Althought Hewlett-Packard has not yet officially launched a Draft N laptop, the announcement is expected shortly. Lenovo has announced it will join Dell and Acer in shipping the fast wireless specification.

"Lenovo is our third partner," said Mike Hurlston, vice president of Broadcom. "It's not yet announced, but we have the green light to say HP will be the fourth." Previous MIMO offerings haven't made it into laptops, he said, but the industry efforts on inter-operability have made it possible.

Draft N laptops will give a step function in wireless performance, said Hurlston, with a speed of 270 Mbit/s now possible, even between chipsets from different vendors. "We expect 30 to 40 percent of notebooks to have Draft N by the back half of 2007," he said. "Next year will be the tipping point, when more than 50 percent will have Draft N cards."

The big change will be driven by events in early 2007, when Intel will launch its own Draft N silicon, and add it to the Centrino specification. The Wi-Fi Alliance will be branding for the draft standard (a first for the normally conservative industry body). Even when Intel does that, Hurlston expects Broadcom to continue to have a strong presence in notebook Draft N cards, as it does with 802.11g - particularly where the laptops are powered by non-Intel processors from AMD.

Broadcom is also announcing a push into "embedded" Wi-Fi at its Analyst Day tomorrow. Although Marvell has beaten it to the world of converged phones, providing silicon that can be built into portable devices, Broadcom hopes to make an impact, with devices that use less power and have memory available for features like 802.11e quality of service, and 802.11r fast roaming - two standards intended for handheld applications, which make demands on the devices.

Read a longer interview with Mike Hurlston.