September 25, 2006 4:00 AM PDT

Intel puts four on the floor

Intel's planning its own version of "Quadrophenia" for this week's Intel Developer Forum, except without The Who or any tough, young mods facing off against angry rockers.

Instead of a rock opera, Intel will shed more light on its plans for quad-core processors, company representatives and analysts said. It has already revealed the code names for the server and desktop versions of those chips: Clovertown and Kentsfield. Those models will be constructed by combining Intel's two newest dual-core processors in those categories in a multichip package.

Attendees are also expected to hear more details about Santa Rosa, an updated version of Intel's Centrino package of chips for notebook PCs, scheduled to arrive around March of next year. And the chipmaker's server division will also likely have a few things to talk about, including the Common System Interface architecture that Intel expects to debut in 2008, and possible plans to let future server processors link directly to third-party co-processors.

Intel holds its developer forums twice a year to educate the hardware developer community on its latest technologies and plans for the future. The chipmaker's CEO, Paul Otellini, is set to deliver the opening keynote address on Tuesday. Other executives, such as labs chief Justin Rattner and server guru Pat Gelsinger, are scheduled to address the crowd of developers, partners and media.

There's a bit of a cloud hanging over the San Francisco event this year, however. Despite all the accolades for Intel's newest generation of Core processors, the Santa Clara, Calif., company has had a tough year. Layoffs, budget cuts and executive shuffling have all taken a toll inside Intel as it adjusts to life with smaller market share. That's why some show veterans are expecting this year's affair to be a bit more subdued than in the past.

After all, Intel already trotted out most of its good stuff this summer, in an attempt to catch up to the performance lead enjoyed by Advanced Micro Devices in the server and desktop markets. It moved up the launch of all three new Core architecture products, such as the Xeon 5100 series server processors, and the Core 2 Duo chips for both desktops and notebooks. It has also revealed an accelerated schedule for presenting new chip architectures, in a bid to avoid getting caught going the wrong way by having more frequent updates to its blueprints.

Also, it seems Intel is less interested these days in providing too detailed a look at its future plans, said Roger Kay, an analyst at Endpoint Technologies Associates. "I think they are sensitive right now because of the competitive landscape," he said, noting that AMD's position against Intel has never been stronger.

Four in hand
But attendees will definitely hear new information about Intel's quad-core chips. Enthusiast sites have been reporting that the processor will bear the "Core 2 Quadro" moniker, although Intel representatives have strongly denied that is the name for the upcoming chip. Whatever brand Intel chooses for Kentsfield, the desktop version, it will probably be associated with something expensive, as the initial buyers of Kentsfield should be early adopters willing to pay big bucks for the highest-performing chip on the market.

Chances are, such buyers will have the opportunity to do so in time for the holiday season, according to sources familiar with Intel's plans. The company had already said it will release Kentsfield and Clovertown during the fourth quarter, but sources say it now expects to make sure those chips are available in PCs offered to holiday shoppers. Intel declined to comment on its plans.

The earlier-than-expected arrival of new models might also push the prices of older dual-core chips down Intel's price stack, making for some compelling deals during the all-important holiday shopping season, said Nathan Brookwood, an analyst at Insight 64.

On the notebook front, Intel has felt less pressure from AMD. But it still launched two new mobile processors--the Core Duo and the Core 2 Duo--in 2006. The Core 2 Duo chip plugs into the same motherboards used for Core Duo notebooks, and Intel will bring some new technologies to the fore next year with the Santa Rosa platform. These include 802.11n wireless capabilities and improved graphics performance.

Graphics picture
Graphics technology is something that the entire PC industry is looking at a little differently these days, ever since AMD reached an agreement in July to purchase graphics chipmaker ATI Technologies for $5.4 billion. AMD and ATI have announced vague plans to integrate a graphics processor onto a PC processor sometime around 2008, and many are wondering what Intel has up its sleeve in this area.

Over the past few years, Intel has devoted a lot of attention toward the integrated graphics technology in many of its chipsets. This is basic no-frills graphics technology--serious gamers put discrete graphics chips from the likes of ATI and Nvidia in their systems--but integrated graphics are good enough for most PC users.

In a possible foreshadowing of Intel's strategy, the company's latest chipset, the 965G, goes a little bit further than past integrated graphics chipsets with specialized graphics hardware integrated into the chipset, said Dean McCarron, an analyst at Mercury Research.

Intel's integrated graphics strategy over the past several years has been to produce decent but inexpensive graphics hardware, emulating some of the graphics processing tasks in software running on the main central processing unit, McCarron said. But the 965G has a piece of hardware on the chipset dedicated to a specific graphics task--transform and lighting--that lightens the load on the main CPU.

With AMD angling toward incorporating parts of ATI's high-end graphics hardware into future chips, this could become an important differentiating factor in the future.

"To me, it signals that Intel is getting more serious about the performance of its graphics core," McCarron said.

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20 comments

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Corporations Rejoice, Consumers Cringe.
Quad core for servers is great news for corporations leaning on Intel based products.

Now, it's a grey day for consumers since most people have no use for quad core computers, yet. Even dual core is still in its infancy with almost no apps available to boost this new found effiency. Heck, 64bit is not even widely used and has almost no apps available either.

I'd like to see a more cohesive and consumer friendly initiative that won't bog us down in technological technobabble. I'm tired of tech companies trying to persuade users to become fanatics for unnecessary technology.

Make it simple, even for people who understand the technological innovation required to impulse us into the digital age.
Posted by Kiyomizu (30 comments )
Reply Link Flag
These chips fly!! Already reviewed and they are FAST..
tom's hardware guide has already reviewed them..

They are screaming fast.
Posted by baswwe (299 comments )
Link Flag
You forgot about...
The prosumers!

The ones that are between needing a dual-core and a full-fledged dual Woodcrest Xeon system.

I so need these extra cores for what I do :)

If you don't, then any chip out now should suffice for your needs.
Posted by TheRealJizzler (7 comments )
Link Flag
in that case
Since you don't see any use in PCs for dual and quad core, I suggest you switch to a Mac and the great OS X, it uses 64 bit :- )

Get the Power Mac G5 or the new one that came out to replace it, G5 would be cheaper since a replacement is here, you can get a great deal on a used PC.

OS is 64 bit, hardware is 64 bit, you'll love it and it is simple to use, yet powerfull under the skin and great updates are just around the corner.
Posted by rmiecznik (224 comments )
Link Flag
I agree
99.9% of consumer software is 32bit single core. Of course little by little it will start to use dual core but quad core wont have more than a dozen consumer apps that will support it for 3-5years.
Posted by Lindy01 (443 comments )
Link Flag
misconceptions abound......
I was reading the comments and want to clarify 2 thngs:

1. The only true 64BIT procs are Itanium/Itanium2's (at least in the world of intel)
2. The only true 64 bit os's are RHEL IA-64, Windows 64BIT ...... I know there are prolly more but you get the idea.....
3. All current desktop/server procs w/the exception of the Itanium line are x64 (meaning they can handle 64 bit addressing & extensions, but are still 32-bit procs).
4. When people say they are running 64 bit windows (i.e. XP x64) they are really running a 32bit os with 64bit extensions ex: 6+ GB of memory.

The G5 is a Dual Proc system, not a dual core.
Posted by Agit66 (7 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Agit66 - intelligent points
Most people have no idea the difference between "architecture" and "platform" and they buy whatever the sales poeple (or rumors) say.

In the low end (sort of) semiconductor industry such as AMD and Intel, true 64-bit architecture is in the Itanium. IBM and Sun know that because they don't like sharing the "pie" with a third competitor. Opterons are brilliant (so far) in the multi-processor (8+) platform systems, and they don't require too much motherboard modifications (great for cost cutting in building new servers).

Amazingly Agit66 nails almost everything (95%), except the G5 which it's true up to a point. Since Apple has upgraded the G5 with the Mac Pro, dual-core processing is a reality with the Woodcrest chips. After November 2007 we are going to have Quads.

Mentally balanced viewpoints are very rare on forums such as this.

Cheers mate!
Posted by domino360 (41 comments )
Link Flag
Define what you mean by not 64 bit.
Are you trying to say that the Athlon does not have 64 bit registers? Are you trying to say that it does not have instructions that operate on those 64 bit registers? Perhaps you are trying to say that the AMD and Intel chips don't have a 64 bit data path to ram?

Yes the x86-64 and EM65T both execute 32 bit instructions and do them well. This does not make them any less a 64 bit operating system.

I will grant that all pushes and pops to the stack are 8 bit.
Posted by ralfthedog (1589 comments )
Link Flag
Video - Speech... Encoding THIS and THAT!!!
Whoever said that dual cores are not needed because there is no software - is out to lunch!!!
If all you do is type letters and wbsurf... then even an old Pentium II will do the trick.
Have you ever tried video editing? A segment of 25minutes with multiple special effects will sometimes take 10hrs to render on P4 3.2HT... and you souldn't use your computer while doing it as it will take even longer...
How about speech recognision? do you know why all of these programs suck? you guessed it it needs more horsepower.
How about you have four monitors hoocked up to your system all showing multiple different programs running at the same time without delays or hickups? ...and I'm not even talking about games.
We have no idea of how we can use computer yet!!!
Learning curve is toooooooo long, because they are toooooooo slow.
Finally the gigaherz war is over and the real development paralell computing or multicore war is ON... 64bit processing? how about 64 bit processing on 64 cores? sounds crazy? not if Moore's law holding true and it does and we are going to be there at the current rate of development in about 5 years.
Posted by Montevale (31 comments )
Reply Link Flag
OSX is not fully 64 bit yet
The GUI is not 64 bit. You need to wait for Leopard, next year, to get the full 64 bit support.
Posted by martin1212 (156 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Happy to see Intel catching up in multi-core battle field
Will they overtake sun microsystems in this field ? They have 8 core multi-threaded niagara chips .
Posted by pokiri (98 comments )
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What most people need
Unless you are doing some intensive graphics rendering or other involved process, over 95% of the time, the processor is sitting there idling... waiting... using electricity. The public has put great demands on or chip makers to give us faster, more powerful, multicored processors. Only until recently has anyone said "give me a processor that will perform more calculations with less electrical power". The electricity used by a processor can be very costly because that energy is translated into heat which takes more electricity to cool it back down. Where server racks once contained a few servers, now you can stack dozens of servers into the same rack, all generating more heat per processor than their predecessors. The chip makes need to direct much more of their focus into this issue.
Posted by Seaspray0 (9714 comments )
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