Ottelini said Intel next year will introduce technology that lets a single microprocessor appear as two processors to software--such as Adobe Photoshop--that's designed to take advantage of dual-processor configurations. That could mean performance improvements of up to 30% vs. comparable Intel processors that lack the technology, Ottelini said. Hyper-Threading, as Intel is calling the technology, will be available next year on the company's 64-bit McKinley processor, designed for use in servers and workstations. After that, Intel will build Hyper-Threading into desktop processors such as the Pentium 4.
Processors equipped with Hyper-Threading will be able to manage incoming data from different applications and continuously switch from one set of instructions to the other without losing track, Intel officials say. A number of key software developers, including Microsoft, have already pledged support for Hyper-Threading, company officials say. Analysts say the technology, if it works as advertised, could give Intel a boost over competitors such as Sun Microsystems. "At the very least it's an interesting concept worth keeping an eye on," says Manoj Nadkarni, principal analyst at Chipinvestor.com.
Intel officials Tuesday also demonstrated the company's forthcoming Machine Check Architecture, designed to let server chips automatically diagnose and resolve a range of problems, such as memory errors or overheating.
Still, for marketing purposes at least, speed remains Intel's No. 1 weapon in its battle with rival chipmaker Advanced Micro Devices Inc., and the company does not appear willing to cede any ground in the gigahertz wars. Intel staffers Tuesday showed a demonstration model Pentium 4 on a .13 micron base running at 3.5-GHz, and Ottelini said the company's current microprocessor architecture has the headroom to eventually hit 10 GHz.
Beyond chips, Intel officials confirmed that next year it will enter the tablet computing market with a device to be sold through original equipment manufacturers. The tablet, about the size of a hardcover book, will be powered by Intel's low-power Tualatin chip. In his keynote, Ottelini said that by 2005, half of all shipments in the growth-challenged desktop market will be in the small form-factor category. Said Ottelini, "In going through downturns, one can't lose site of what customers want."