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1/17/2007
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Intel Produces First Chips With 45-Nanometer Technology

The Penryn line of processors will have dual-core and quad-core versions, but an Intel technologist would not dismiss the idea of an eight-core chip, as well.

Intel has fabricated its first chips using 45-nanometer process technology -- under the name Penryn -- which it hopes will allow the company to usher in improved power efficient processors.

CEO Paul Otellini said in a conference call regarding Intel's quarterly earnings that the company is on track to start full 45-nanometer production in the second half of this year. The Penryn line of processors will cross product lines from desktop to server, workstation and mobile.

"It's coming along quite nicely," says Ron Curry, a technology strategist for Intel, in an interview with InformationWeek. "We have the first chips of the Penryn family of processors in-house and we're testing them. Things are looking very good."

The Penryn processors will have dual-core and quad-core versions. When questioned directly, however, Curry would not dismiss the possibility that an eight-core version of Penryn could be coming down the road. Both dual-core and quad-core chips were launched for the first time this past year.

"We are not limited to quad-core," says Curry. "Certainly, we can do more than quad-core, but it's too early to go into more detail at the moment. But certainly this technology is not limited to quad-core."

Intel moved to the 65-nanometer chip architecture early in 2006. Rival Advanced Micro Devices moved to 65-nanometer process technology in December, unveiling it for its Athlon 64 X2 dual-core desktop processors. AMD reported last month that the transition to the smaller geometry enables AMD to produce more processors on a 300-mm wafer.

The 45-nanometer process is widely seen as the next great frontier in the semiconductor industry because it's seen as addressing a power leakage problem common with current technologies.

Basically, a chip built with 65-nanometer process technology is smaller than its 90-nanometer predecessor. The chip pieces, such as wires and transistors, shrink along with it. The smaller chips work more efficiently because of the increased density. They're also cheaper to produce because manufacturers can squeeze more chips onto a silicon wafer.

One nanometer is equal to one-billionth of a meter.

Intel is scheduled to have three fabrication factories producing the 45-nanometer chips by the first half of 2008.

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