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Wednesday, March 19, 2008
Microsoft, Intel Research Parallel Computing With US Universities

Microsoft and Intel said Tuesday they are teaming with US universities to unleash the mighty potential of multi-core computer chips.

Microsoft and Intel will jointly spend U.S. $20m over five years to fund Universal Parallel Computing Research Centers at the University of California, Berkeley, and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. An additional $8 million will come from UIUC, and UC Berkeley has applied for $7 million in funds from a state-supported program to match industry grants.

Research will focus on advancing parallel programming applications, architecture and operating systems software. This is the first joint industry and university research alliance of this magnitude in the United States focused on mainstream parallel computing.

Parallel computing brings together advanced software and processors that have multiple cores or engines, which when combined can handle multiple instructions and tasks simultaneously. Although Microsoft, Intel and many others deliver hardware and software that is capable of handling dual- and quad-core-based PCs today, in the coming years computers are likely to have even more processors inside them.

"Intel has already shown an 80-core research processor, and we're quickly moving the computing industry to a many-core world," said Andrew Chien, vice president, Corporate Technology Group and director, Intel Research. "Working with Microsoft and these two prestigious universities will help catalyze the long-term breakthroughs that are needed to enable dramatic new applications for the mainstream user."

"Working jointly with industry and academia, we plan to explore the next generation of hardware and software to unlock the promise and the power of parallel computing and enable a change in the way people use technology," said Tony Hey, corporate vice president of External Research at Microsoft Research.

Intel and rival AMD already market chips with two or four cores and say it is likely the number will rise. Intel researchers have made an 80-core research processor.

The research will complement and extend existing parallel computing programs at UC Berkeley, UIUC, Microsoft and Intel.

Predicted research breakthroughs include software enabling people's mobile telephone to recognize faces of approaching acquaintances and whisper their names to users.

Another foreseeable application is described as voice recognition software so accurate it could be used to record witness testimony in courtroom proceedings.

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