Intel has been beaten by AMD in bringing 64-bit capabilities to x86-based microprocessors and then ramping up volume production of dual-core processors for the server market. But the leading chip maker will counterpunch this week when it details a "next generation multi-core architecture" on Tuesday that is expected to include details of how Intel will bring greater performance to its processors over the next year while improving energy efficiency.
The new architecture is expected to borrow heavily from Intel's existing mobile Pentium M processor, says Dean McCarron, an analyst with Mercury Research.
Intel last week disclosed that it plans to beginning shipping its first dual-core Xeon processors in the fourth quarter, about two quarters earlier than first projected. Its next generation architecture also could provide a platform to accelerate the next jump to four-core processors.
McCarron says the acceleration of dual-core production by Intel came about in part because the company adopted a much more conservative policy on making projections for new product introductions about 18 months ago.
"I think their new policy has been that they will be very, very confident on any product availability projections, and what has resulted is they are running a little bit ahead of that conservative schedule," McCarron says.
In the second quarter, Intel saw its share of the total x86 microprocessor market increase slightly. According to Mercury Research, Intel controlled 82.3% of the market in the quarter, compared to AMD with 16.2%. In the first quarter, Intel had 81.6% share, and AMD had 16.9%. In the second quarter of 2004, Intel had 82.9% share, and AMD had 15.1%
Intel's slight gain the second quarter was due primarily to "end of life" processor purchases by Microsoft for use in its Xbox game platform, McCarron says.
AMD has experienced significantly better performance when counting only processors for the server market. AMD saw its share of the x86-based server processor market grow 51% in the second quarter, from 7.4% to 11.2% That improvement in AMD's x86 server share can be attributed, in part, to the fact only AMD's Opteron was available as a dual-core offering in the second quarter.
"Obviously this market has gotten a little more competitive in the past year or so," McCarron says. "But it's hard to say how big of advantage AMD has gotten from having its dual-core Opteron on the market, since Intel still has marketshare that is close to 90%.