Despite being slammed by the financial crisis, Intel is not slowing down. It made this crystal clear in a chip technology briefing on Tuesday, putting rivals on notice that the competition will only get more intense.
The world's largest chipmaker is accelerating introduction of new chips, particularly silicon targeted at laptop computers. Intel is achieving this by moving quickly to processors based on next-generation 32-nanometer manufacturing process technology and investing heavily to keep its most advanced chip factories humming, as CEO Paul Otellini pointed out in a speech in Washington, D.C., earlier today.
In a nutshell, this means Intel may move further ahead of the competition as it uses its deep pockets to advance to the newest generation of processors sooner. It also means a renewed emphasis on packing more features--such as better graphics--into mobile chips, particularly those going into laptops.
"The trend toward notebooks is one of the most important megatrends," said Stephen Smith, vice president and director of business operations for Intel's Digital Enterprise Group. Smith spoke Tuesday in San Francisco during the chip road map briefing, which was also available via teleconference.
Intel will bring out a 32-nanometer mobile processor code-named Arrandale in the fourth quarter of this year that integrates graphics silicon into the same chip package as the main processor or CPU. This is a first for Intel--which to date had offered graphics in a separate chip package. This 32-nanometer dual-core chip was previously expected to appear in 2010.
Another mobile chip due this year, code-named Clarksfield, will pack four cores. This will use current 45-nanometer technology.
Both chips will be based on Intel's new Nehalem microarchitecture, currently used in Core i7 desktop processors.
Smith also reiterated another important technological thrust at Intel when speaking about these upcoming chips: de-emphasizing raw chip speed--usually stated in megahertz or gigahertz--and focusing on "hyper-threading"--or designing chips to handle more than one task at a time without adding more physical processing cores. A thread constitutes a task.
"Clock speeds will stay about the same (as current chips)," Smith said.
Smith also spoke about Westmere, which is Intel's broader term for the effort to move current Nehalem processors (currently marketed as the Core i7) to 32-nanometer technology.
On the server front, an announcement is "imminent" of its first Nehalem processors for servers code-named Nehalem EP, according to Smith. These quad-core processors are designed for servers that have two "sockets"--providing a total of eight processing cores per server.