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6/21/2006
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Will Intel's Woodcrest Change The Landscape?

In typical Intel fashion, the company has scheduled a major press event for Monday that will happen simultaneously in New York and San Francisco to herald the arrival of a new product the company has been talking about extensively for the past six months. While it will be interesting to see what new information will be provided by Intel, what will be more intriguing is to watch over the next six months and see just what impact Woodcrest will have in reversing the company's struggles against Adva

In typical Intel fashion, the company has scheduled a major press event for Monday that will happen simultaneously in New York and San Francisco to herald the arrival of a new product the company has been talking about extensively for the past six months. While it will be interesting to see what new information will be provided by Intel, what will be more intriguing is to watch over the next six months and see just what impact Woodcrest will have in reversing the company's struggles against Advanced Micro Devices.The Monday conferences will put the cherry on top of the sundae that Intel has been putting together for the better part of the past year. Intel executives, employees, and shareholders undoubtedly hope this will be one great-tasting confection. While Intel's fortunes have hardly been dashed against the rocks and Intel remains the largest semiconductor maker in the world, its reputation and market share position has taken a beating over the past two years as AMD has managed to bring new innovations to market faster, particularly in the server market where Opteron has had a distinct performance-per-watt advantage over Xeon.

Woodcrest is the new server platform based on Intel's Core architecture that was introduced at the Intel Developer Forum in March. Core will also serve as the underlying architecture for Intel's new desktop and mobile platforms. At IDF, Intel said Woodcrest will provide up to a 35% performance improvement and 1.4X performance-per-watt improvement over Opteron processors. Of course, AMD will be making improvements of its own in upcoming Opteron generations.

A demonstration by Intel that it's creating a substantial performance boost with this new generation of processors may be necessary if it plans to slow down the momentum of AMD. AMD now controls about 22% of the x86 processor market, and the company's recently announced goal of achieving 30% market share within two years now seems quite reasonable. More significant are some numbers within specific segments like the four-way server market, where AMD now owns 48% of the U.S. market and 36% worldwide, according to Gartner.

Intel has already missed the boat with some customers. In an InformationWeek online story published Wednesday, CLP Power Hong Kong, a provider of electricity power generation, distribution, and retail services to 2.2 million customers in Hong Kong, details how AMD was able to capture its business away from Intel by being first to market with a 64-bit x86 implementation, as well as first to market with dual-core server processors.

"I think Intel got very complacent," says Andre Blumberg, technology and architecture manager for CLP. "Woodcrest looks quite good on paper, and we'll see how that platform performs... But we are not going to do anything based on the flavor of the day."

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