Intel Firms Up Dual-Core Plans

CEO Craig Barrett tells analysts that Intel is "firing on all cylinders" as the company offers a timetable for its first dual-core processor and mobile SpeedStep power management technology.

Intel Corp. updated its 2005 product plans at its analyst meeting in New York Tuesday, including a timetable for its so-called "Ts," the processor technologies that are beginning to take precedence over clock-speed increases.

Intel, of Santa Clara, Calif., plans to introduce its first dual processor core, "Smithfield," in 2005, as part of the companys "Lyndon" desktop platform. The desktop processor will include a version of the companys mobile SpeedStep technology for power management, a confirmation of a trend Intel executives had hinted at over the past few months. SpeedStep will also be included in the "Sonoma" platform refresh of the Centrino mobile line.

The SpeedStep power management technology, Hyper-Threading and dual-core processors are all part of Intels awkwardly-named "Ts," the technologies that are being used to enhance chips whose clock rates are quietly being acknowledged as fast enough. The shift is known internally as Intels "right-hand turn" strategy, moving away from linear increases in clock speed.

Further enhancements to the Ts will include dedicated speech recognition and data-mining algorithms, said Ron Curry, director of technology marketing at the Corporate Technology Group within Intel.

Moving to dual-core and multicore processors will allow Intel to dramatically enhance performance without increasing clock speed, according to Paul Otellini, Intels president and chief operating officer, who will succeed Craig Barrett as CEO in May. Consistent increases in clock speed and process enhancements have upped the performance of Intel processors by three times about every four years, using the imprecise but common SPEC benchmark.

Tacking on dual-core and multicore enhancements will increase that rate to about 10 times over the same period, Otellini said. HyperThreading, which supporting software sees as a virtual second processor, was the first step along this road. Intel currently ships 65 percent of its desktop processors with HyperThreading, up from 50 percent earlier this year. By 2006, 70 percent of Intels desktop processor shipments will have moved to dual-core processors.

"This is very, very critical to understand where Intel is going," Otellini said.

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Tuesday, Intel executives met Wall Street analysts at a time when the chip maker is preparing to evolve its business model from a price-performance metric to one that emphasizes other characteristics, such as low power and parallelism. For now, a revived PC market is expected to boost Intels fourth-quarter revenue; however, rival Advanced Micro Devices Inc. continues to make inroads against Intels market share, while low-cost vendors such as VIA Technologies Inc. nip Intels heels.

Intel chief executive Craig Barrett indicated that the period of missteps and roadmap rethinking that characterized Intels 2004 had finally come to a close, and that the chip maker had its ducks in a row for the Smithfield introduction.

"You should walk away with the message that we have recovered from those missteps and the machine is firing on all cylinders on those introductions," he said.

Those missteps continue to have repercussions, however. For example, a year ago Otellini said that he had hoped to lower the companys microprocessor manufacturing costs by 15 percent. However, the delay attached to the recall of the "Grantsdale" chip set pushed out those plans. By the end of 2005, Intel hopes to have cut its costs by 20 percent, possibly passing along the savings to customers.

Next page: Product plans.