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Friday, May 06, 2005
Intel highlights its next-gen dual-core chips

Intel President Paul Otellini announced three second-generation dual-core processors on Thursday and said first-generation prototypes are faring well.

In February, Intel said it was working on 15 dual-core chip designs, which combine two processing engines on a single slice of silicon, and on Thursday Otellini disclosed three new names.

Code names for those second-generation dual-core chips are Conroe, for desktop machines; Merom, for laptops; and Woodcrest, for lower-end servers with two processor sockets, Otellini said. They will succeed Presler, Yonah and Dempsey, respectively.

Otellini said Merom is scheduled to arrive "late next year," but didn't share other scheduling details. His presentation indicated that Conroe could arrive about the same time as Merom, but that Woodcrest will arrive after 2006.

Dual-core processors, which already have become commonplace in higher-end servers from IBM, Sun Microsystems and Hewlett-Packard, now are arriving in mainstream computers using x86 processors such as Intel's Xeon and Advanced Micro Devices' Opteron. The dual-core design philosophy is the chip industry's answer to the question of how to make chips more useful without making them consume too much power and throw off too much heat.

Although Intel has released dual-core desktop processors and plans to release Yonah by the end of 2005, rival AMD has the edge right now in the server market, where software is better adapted to take advantage of dual-core chips. AMD introduced dual-core Opteron processors in April and plans dual-core desktop chips in June.

But Intel said several of its dual-core prototypes are coming along well. "We are very comfortable we can bring them out in high volume," Otellini said of Presler for desktop PCs, Dempsey for two-socket and dual-core servers, and Paxville for higher-end four-socket servers.

That's significant, given the company's manufacturing power and market share. For example, even though Intel introduced 64-bit x86 chips midway through 2005--more than a year after AMD--it outpaced AMD in server shipments in 2004.

In addition, some dual-core test servers will arrive this year. Intel will distribute those machines this year using the Bensley "platform," which combines the Dempsey chip and an Intel chipset.

"We are planning to ship thousands of seed systems to the marketplace over the second half of 2005 to enable end users, as well as the hardware and software ecosystem, to get ready for these technologies," Otellini said.

He also said Intel plans to ship a "large quantity" of higher-end four-socket servers with the Paxville chip this year for the same purpose.

Also issuing bullish forecasts Thursday was Sean Maloney, executive vice president of Intel's Mobility Group. Intel has done well with its processors and chipsets for laptops, and now believes some of that success will carry over to processors for mobile phones as more companies build designs with Intel chips.

"A year ago we said we were disappointed with the pick-up rate. That is now starting to change," Maloney said. The company expects to ship application processors for mobile phones at the rate of 7.5 million per quarter by the fourth quarter of 2005, he said. In addition, Intel is working on an accompanying base-band processor--the one that handles radio communication tasks--for release in the second half of 2005.

Intel is working with Nokia and other partners to improve the software connection between PCs and mobile phones, allowing for the smoother transfer of digital photos and synchronization of contact lists, Maloney said. The company plans to unveil details of this effort at its Intel Developer Forum in the first quarter of 2006, he said.

Maloney added that Intel is unifying manufacturing operations for its mobile PC and mobile-phone handset work. "Up until now, we used separate manufacturing and design flows. Increasingly we will drive toward commonality," he said.

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