Intel CEO: Dual-Core Design Addresses Power Challenge

Speaking at the Gartner Symposium/ITxpo in Florida, Craig Barrett says users will accept less processing power in exchange for more features.

ORLANDO, Fla.—Intel Corp.s decision to move to a multicore architecture for its next-generation CPUs is a recognition that the computer industry is facing an increasing power-management challenge in its chip designs, Intel CEO Craig Barrett said Tuesday.

However, Barrett said this challenge doesnt indicate that the industry has run up against the technological limit of Moores Law, which states that computer processing power will double every 18 months.

Barrett, speaking at Gartner Inc.s Symposium/ITxpo here, said Moores Law will "continue on for at least the next decade or a decade and a half."

When Intel decided to back away from its commitment to deliver a 4GHz Pentium processor next year, it was making a trade-off between of features and capabilities over raw processing power, he said.

"I mean you can continue to run transistors faster and faster. That just eats up more power," Barrett said. "Or you can use those transistors to do something else. You can put [in] more cache, more capability, another core, another thread and increase the performance."

Intels decision to move to move to a "dual-core, multicore, multithreaded capability is precisely what we have to do to avoid that power challenge," he said.

/zimages/6/28571.gifClick here to read more about Intels dual-core plans.

Barrett conceded that had to "eat crow on that public commitment" to deliver a 4GHz processor. But he said he believes that the user community will readily accept the trade-off of getting more features for slightly less processing power.

Barrett also lauded Microsofts announcement Tuesday that it was going to align its software licensing policy to make it easier to purchase software for dual-core or multiple core processors.

All software producers face the issue, Barrett said. "If we go to multiple cores within the processor and multiple threads within each core, you have to decide how you are going to license your software."

Microsoft is "moving forward with licensing on a per-package basis. It doesnt matter how many cores or threads you have in the processor itself," Barrett said.

If Microsoft or the rest of the industry started licensing on the basis of individual processor cores or threads "you would be depriving the end user of the benefits of Moores Law—the benefits of moving forward. So I think Microsoft made a great decision," he said.

Responding to questions from Gartner senior industry analysts Martin Reynolds and Tom Austin, Barrett also addressed his reasons for addressing a letter to Intel employees this summer to increase their attention to quality and "performance excellence."

Barrett said he wrote the letter because several recent product delays and production glitches demonstrated "we werent meeting our own standards and we werent meeting the standards that the press and user community has for us.

"We set very high standards for ourselves from an execution standpoint, and we are something of a leader in the industry from a process technology and manufacturing standpoint," he said.

"I think we just got a little bit behind the power curve where we lapsed a little bit with the tools and the processes that we are using," Barrett said. He added that the letter was intended to get employees to increase their focus on process execution and the "operational excellence" that Intel is known for.

Barrett said that further evidence that Moores Law will remain valid for years to come is the convergence of processing power and communications.

He noted that Wi-Fi use in hotels and other public spaces has exploded over the past year and a half. "We are going to see a similar explosion of WiMax—and thats really a last-mile broadband solution—over the next 12 to 18 months," he said.

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John Pallatto

John Pallatto

John Pallatto has been editor in chief of QuinStreet Inc.'s since October 2012. He has more than 40 years of experience as a professional journalist working at a daily newspaper and...