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Intel Speeds Up Plans For Dual-Core Xeons

Intel appears ready to introduce a dual-core Xeon in the fourth quarter and is expected to reveal those plans at the Intel Developer Forum on Aug. 23.
Intel appears ready to accelerate its dual-core and multicore processor efforts and will roll out a dual-core Xeon in the fourth quarter, according to a source familiar with the company's plans. Intel will say only that it intends to unveil a "next-generation multicore architecture" at the Intel Developer Forum on Aug. 23.

Although Intel declined to provide specifics about its next-generation architecture before the forum that's being held in San Francisco, Rob Chapman, general manager of the Intel Developer Forum, says products from the new architecture will be introduced in the second half of 2006 and "will be encompassing, going across platforms and across businesses."

The next-generation architecture will include a focus on improved energy efficiency and multicore capabilities, and will be used within all its processor lines for PCs, servers, and handheld devices, Chapman says.

As well as being multicore, the new architecture is expected to include further integration of the company's "embedded IT," including virtualization and active management, and will provide lower power dissipation.

Intel last month provided a road map for its current generation of processors, which included a new numbering nomenclature for its server processors. That road map placed a strong emphasis on lower-power devices and laid out Intel's plans to extend dual-core capability across its product line in the first half of 2005.

Intel is expected to begin delivery of its first dual-core Xeon processors in the fourth quarter of this year, says one source briefed on the company's plans. Intel has fallen behind rival Advanced Micro Devices Inc., which already has introduced dual-core versions of its Athlon PC processor and Opteron server processor lines. Intel has released dual-core versions of its Pentium processor line, including the dual-core Pentium D, which is being used in low-end server systems by Dell.

The faster-than-expected delivery of a dual-core Xeon has fueled speculation that Intel also plans to speed introduction of the next phase in multicore processors, which would integrate four processing core in a single chip. "I think it's clear Intel has made the decision to go multicore across the board, and I would expect them to hang their hat on multicore at IDF," says Mike Feibus, an analyst with TechKnowledge Strategies. "I think they're going to proliferate multicore across their product line from the smallest notebook to the largest server."

The shift to dual-core processors comes as Intel is moving most of its manufacturing capacity from 90-nanometer line-width geometries to 65 nanometers. The smaller processing geometries allow Intel to fit more transistors within the same silicon real estate used by previous-generation devices. The transition to four-core, or multicore, chips was expected to happen when Intel moves to 45-nanometer production in 2007. If Intel unveils plans for four-core processors at the developer forum, with production scheduled for the second half of 2006, it would be an indication that its 45-nanometer capabilities are proceeding faster than originally scheduled.