Intel to Showcase Quad-Core Chips at Developer Forum

In a move to compete with its momentum-gaining rival AMD, Intel is expected to unveil its new server and desktop range of quad-core processors at the Intel Developer Forum in San Francisco this week. “Clovertown” is the code name for the server version, while “Kentsfield” refers to the desktop version.

Intel has just gone through what is arguably one of its rockiest-ever years. The company has been dogged by poor financial performance, massive layoffs, and the loss of market share to the once relatively non-threatening AMD. It is hoping for some positive publicity around this latest development.

A Quad Horse Race

For all its woes, Intel has done well to deliver its new products on time this year. Its Xeon 5100 chips for servers and its Core 2 Duo chips for desktops and notebooks have been generally well received.

Now, the company appears to be ahead of schedule on its quad-core development. Echoing the dual-core concept, quad-core processors — four cores on a single die of silicon — are designed to provide plenty of power with lower energy consumption. Intel bases its multi-core processors on its Core microarchitecture.

“Everyone has quads in the pipeline,” Endpoint Technology Associates Principal Analyst Roger Kay told TechNewsWorld. “Intel has pulled this out faster than some thought. The development process has been going along pretty well. It’s a horse race between AMD and Intel.”

Promising Power

Indeed, AMD and Intel are both promising to deliver the power of quads. AMD last month announced the completion of the design, or tape-out, of its native quad-core AMD Opteron processors.

AMD plans to deliver its quad-core technology to consumers mid-2007. Intel has set its ship date for quad-core technology in November, starting with Kentsfield. As Kay noted, Intel is coming to market faster than expected. The company initially slated the launch of its quad-core technology for early 2007.

Quad-core processors are designed to let users perform numerous tasks more quickly and smoothly while multiple applications are running. For example, they may be able to compose and send e-mails while downloading music or videos and conducting a virus scan.

“Quad cores create more opportunities for parallel work by dividing the tasks,” Kay said. “The clock rates are slower than previous generations, but the work gets done faster because various workloads are simultaneously completed on individual cores.”

Advancing Technology

Though Intel’s specific architecture has not yet been revealed, the leading chipmaker has said it will create its quads by combining its Core 2 Duo processors in a multi-chip package.

Meanwhile, quad-core AMD Opteron processors are expected to be electrical-, thermal- and socket-compatible.

Doubtless, each company will claim superiority. It’s difficult to verify such claims, Kay said. Intel die-hards are likely to stick with Intel, and AMD die-hards with AMD.

“It doesn’t make much difference to AMD enthusiasts if Intel’s quad-cores come out a few months earlier,” Kay noted. “Soon, people will start talking about the next thing — octal-cores. The promise is in the future, though, because these vendors just got comfortable that the software is advanced enough to work with quad-cores.”

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