Intel to Unwrap 2GHz P4

Chip maker to showcase high-speed chip, plus McKinley and Banias CPUs, at its Developers Forum.

Intel Corp. will announce the release of a 2GHz Pentium 4 processor to kick off its Developers Forum next week in San Jose, Calif.

The chip maker is also expected to promote several upcoming processors, such as its second-generation Itanium chip, code-named McKinley, and a mobile processor, code-named Banias, scheduled for release in 2003.

The company will host sessions with developers to discuss interconnect architectures, including its proposed successor to PCI, code-named Arapahoe, as well as Infiniband and USB (Universal Serial Bus) 2.0. Much of the forums first day will be devoted to the 2GHz Pentium 4 and Intels efforts to spur customers to integrate the chip into a wider variety of PC platforms.

Although impressive, analysts say, the high-speed chip will likely have minimal impact on PC sales.

"I dont know if 2GHz is going to excite or ignite the market," said Kevin Krewell, an analyst with Cahners MicroDesign Resources, in Sunnyvale, Calif. "Its sort of like a we did it sort of thing, then you move on."

But another analyst said the chip marks the emergence of the Pentium 4 as the clear leader in the desktop market. "Weve already seen at 1.3GHz, 1.4GHz, 1.5GHz that the Pentium 4 is not a very exciting product. But at 2GHz, it really does provide higher levels of performance than anything else out there," said Nathan Brookwood, an analyst for Insight 64, in Saratoga, Calif.

On another processor front, analysts and developers are hoping Intel, of Santa Clara, Calif., will provide further details on McKinley, the next incarnation of its 64-bit Itanium processor, which is scheduled to start shipping in pilot systems this fall.

"It theoretically goes at higher clock speeds than the current Merced [Itanium] product," Brookwood said, "but they are using the same semiconductor processes. Therefore, how they get higher clock speeds and greater performance using the same process technology is still something that is veiled in mystery."

Mahlon Stacy, who oversees Itanium systems being pilot tested at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., also wants to learn more about McKinley.

"What are the enhancements in McKinley that extend the benefits of Itanium?" asked Stacy, system administrator for Mayo Foundation Medical Science. "Does it clock faster, which would most likely offer a linear improvement in performance, or are the enhancements in higher parallelism, which may only be captured via recompiling and/or reoptimizing the source codes?"

During the forum, Intel will release the first detailed information about Arapahoe, its proposed successor to the PCI bus. As processors and other computer components become increasingly fast, a fix is needed to prevent the bus from becoming a bottleneck that could hinder performance improvements.

While the chip maker has yet to publicly reveal specifications behind Arapahoes emerging design, Intel this month secured the support of a key industry group, PCI-SIG (Special Interest Group), which formally endorsed Arapahoe as the successor to PCI.