Convergence Still The Watchword At IDF

Intel will continue to push computing and communications closer together when the Intel Developer Forum kicks off later this month, with updated info on the "Springdale" and "Canterwood" PC chipsets, the "Prescott" and

Intel will continue to push computing and communications closer together when the Intel Developer Forum kicks off later this month.

"It should be a great time," said Pat Gelsinger, a senior vice-president and chief technology officer for Intel.

For the last few years, the IDF conference has stood as a showcase for Intels vision of the computing landscape. Part stage show, part hardscrabble technology seminar, the fall and spring forums have served as one of the few venues at which Intel executives have discussed their future plans.

Gone are the days when hordes of rabid reporters quizzed Intels memory gurus and DRAM executives over their decision to use Rambus memory; these days designers hear the distant thunder of fundamental architecture revisions, like PCI Express. As usual, Intel will present two perspectives, executives said: a narrow look at technologies due in the next few months, and a broader vision of whats to come in subsequent generations.

What to expect: the news

When IDF begins on Feb. 18, attendees should expect hard information both on the Springdale and Canterwood PC chipsets, Gelsinger said, which will bump up the PCs front-side bus to 800-MHz. Canterwood is a version of the Springdale chipset with support for DDR 400 memory and integrated graphics, according to sources and published reports. And while Intel wont be making any formal discussions of a "HyperThreading 2", IDF presentations will discuss the future of threading, Gelsinger confirmed, most likely the road to two or more "virtual cores" inside an HT-enabled processor.

"We always have like 80,000 chipmunks working really hard… to get this stuff off in two weeks," Gelsinger quipped. "Were predicting the positive conclusion of all of that work."

In addition, Intel will present new information on its 90-nm processors, specifically Prescott, the next-generation Pentium 4 core, and especially Dothan, the mobile version.

Chief executive Craig Barrett, in fact, will highlight the 90-nm process in his keynote, emphasizing that Intels manufacturing prowess has left the company a generation ahead of the competition, and tying that to new products and services. The emphasis on manufacturing leadership will be an important subtext at the show, Intel executives said.

"The focus for the company will be to invest and innovate in new technologies while the industry recovers," Gelsinger said.

Rambus will formally launch its Redwood PC interconnect at the show, according to a company spokesman, but Gelsinger said Intel didnt plan any specific announcements.

"No, thats a standard denial," Gelsinger replied, when asked to clarify if Intel would use the technology regardless of any announcements.

The rundown

Vice presidents Louis Burns and Anand Chandrasekher, general managers of the desktop and mobile platforms groups, respectively, will highlight the "client day", treating the desktop, mobile, and handheld platforms as variations of the same device.

Although Intels Banias processor and wireless Centrino platform is due next month, Intel will try to shift the audiences focus back to mobile technology, rather than on the product-specific speeds and feeds of the Banias, said Don MacDonald, director of mobile marketing at Intel, in a January interview.

"One of things were looking at in our presentations is rather than just talking about the technology, is emphasizing the end value of those technologies and capabilities," Gelsinger said.

A discussion of Intels wireless efforts will be anchored by Gadi Singer, vice-president of wireless communications and computing and general manager of Intels PCA components group. Singer will discuss the Manitoba, an "Internet on a chip" combining Intels XScale core, Intels StrataFlash memory, and a baseband chipset using the Intel Micro Signal architecture, originally due to be shipped during the second half of 2002.

"The impact is that these create a new generation of products which in turn creates a new user mode," Singer said.

The laconic Mike Fister, senior vice-president and general manager of Intels Enterprise Platforms Group, will share the stage with Sean Maloney, executive vice-president and general manager of Intels communications group on Thursday. Following Fisters updates to the 2003 and 2004 Xeon and Itanium product lines, including details on the lower-power "Deerfield" Itanium, Maloney will announce new products in the communications space, including new network processors. Intel executives will also discuss Intels transition plans to PCI Express, Gelsinger said.

Finally, Gelsinger will get a day to himself on Friday to discuss Intels research activities. Gelsinger will present updates on the "Radio Free Intel" wireless initiative, including roaming and software-defined reconfigurable radios and "precision biology", mixing electrical engineering and chemistry to detect the makeup of proteins or even DNA.

"Its way cool stuff," Gelsinger said. "All of those biology and chemistry courses you slept through in college -- it brings that back to the fore."

IDF will also include two new panels, one of which will focus on the legal and political elements of developing new technologies, such as allocating spectrum for new wireless technologies. The other will concentrate on the practices and pitfalls of research.