Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Intel Previews a New Family of Power-Saving Chips

Intel today gave the first public demonstration of a new generation of processors that significantly increase performance without consuming more power.

Intel’s chief executive, Paul S. Otellini, told developers at its biannual technology conference that the company expects to finish the new family of chips in the second half of next year, in keeping with its latest promise of a new chip architecture every other year.

The new architecture, code-named Nehalem, will use as many as eight processing cores, and offer better graphics and memory control processing.

Intel had been late to respond to technical challenges in energy efficiency and heat consumption, and has spent the better of two years racing to catch up with its smaller but feisty competitor, Advanced Micro Devices.

Mr. Otellini’s speech today comes almost exactly a year after Intel announced a painful corporate overhaul, including a round of cost-cutting that reduced its work force by 10 percent and trimmed $5 billion in expenses.

As part of its corporate revamping, Intel executives last year outlined a “tick-tock” strategy, referring to the development of a new chip architecture every other year and the introduction of a new manufacturing technology in alternating years.

“Our tick-tock strategy of alternating next generation silicon technology and a new microprocessor architecture — year after year — is accelerating the pace of innovation in the industry,” Mr. Otellini said.

The new silicon technology component — representing the other part of the equation — is almost ready. When Intel introduces its Penryn family of processors on Nov. 12, it will be the industry’s first high-volume 45-nanometer processor.

Mr. Otellini said the company plans to introduce 15 new 45-nanometer processors by the end of this year and an additional 20 in the first quarter of 2008. The current standard is 65 nanometers, and A.M.D. has said it will move to 45-nanometer technology in mid 2008.

“We expect our Penryn processors to provide up to a 20 percent performance increase while improving energy efficiency,” Mr. Otellini said. The new chips, he said, will be used for small yet technologically advanced devices.

Mr. Otellini also demonstrated to developers the industry’s first working chips built using 32-nanometer technology, on track to begin production in 2009. The 32-nanometer chips use transistors so small that more than 4 million of them could fit on the head of a pin.

“Smaller is better; smaller is cheaper,” Mr. Otellini said.

Mr. Otellini also said Intel has decided to be halogen-free by the end of 2008; Intel processors are already lead-free, he said.

Just a day before the start of Intel’s developer conference, A.M.D. unveiled a new twist in its own product road map: a desktop chip with three cores — unusual in an industry that tends to grow in even numbers, routinely doubling performance. The announcement came as a surprise to analysts, as the company had touted the advantages of four processors only last week.

A.M.D. executives said, however, that its quad-core desktop chip had been slower to catch on than the company expected when it released it last November, and today A.M.D.’s quad core processors account for only 2 percent of all desktop computer systems.

A.M.D. is hoping that its new three-core chip, called Phenom, will appeal to midrange customers looking for more performance than dual core systems, but who don’t see the need for quad-core systems.

But the addition of the triple-core chip, part of A.M.D.’s Phenom family of processors, could prove confusing to customers, said Nathan Brookwood, principal analyst with Insight 64, a consultancy in Saratoga, Calif. The new triple-core chip is due in the first quarter of 2008, a quarter after the company is scheduled to release the quad-core product.

Source: www.nytimes.com

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