The silicon giant is expected to officially unveil its Intel 945X Express chip set and dual-core Pentium D chips on Thursday, May 26, ahead of the Memorial Day weekend in the United States.
The chip set, which follows 2004s Intel 915 Express—a product the company said was one of its most important in years—will become the backbone for a new generation of midrange and high-end PCs for corporations as well as consumers.
A chip set is the equivalent of a PCs nervous system, shuttling data about inside it.
The 945X, which will undoubtedly bring with it a host of new desktops from brand names such as Dell Inc. and Hewlett-Packard Co., will be the cornerstone for Intels latest efforts in corporate PCs.
The company will base its Professional Business Platform, a collection of hardware it says better meets businesses PC needs, around the chip set.
Intel, which often uses its annual desktop chip set launches to add new features to deskbound PCs, has added to the 945X a higher-performance built-in graphics processor, along with support for faster memory and a higher-bandwidth Serial ATA hookup for hard drives as well as hooks for its Active Management Technology.
Active Management Technology, although optional, will be prominently featured as part of the Professional Business Platform, which pairs the 945G—the version of the chip set that comes with built-in graphics—with single-core Pentium 4 600 series processors and its Intel Pro/1000M Gigabit Ethernet adapter.
Going forward, Intel plans to offer annual business desktop refreshes that add features designed to better meet the needs of corporations. The Professional Business Platform is also part of Intels Stable Image Platform Program, which ensures that business PC software images will remain the same for 15 months.
"Think of the Professional Business Platform as the base model, plus a package of Intels latest and best business technology. It takes the best of what weve got and packages it together at a mainstream price point," Mike Ferron-Jones, director of Intels Digital Office Platforms Division, said in an interview earlier this week.
Despite the fact that the Professional Business Platform will specify single-core Pentium 4s at first, PC makers are still likely to offer businesses high-end desktops or possibly workstations that pair the 945X and dual-core Pentium D chips. The 945X will be available in multiple versions, including one without built-in graphics, for high-end PCs. The chip set will work with single-core Pentium 4 600s and Pentium D chips.
The 945X chip set will offer several other upgrades as well. The 945Gs graphics engine, dubbed the GMA 950, offers greater graphics performance, and works with multiple TV tuners for consumer applications.
All 945X chip sets will offer dual-channel support for DDR2-667, a newer version of the DDR2 RAM and a 3G bit-per-second Serial ATA connection for up to four hard drives. Todays 915 Express chip-set PCs offer DDR2-533 RAM and use a 1.5G bit Serial ATA connection.
The 945X chip set also adds support for up to six PCI-Express slots for add-in cards, a 1,066MHz front side bus, and two additional versions of the RAID standard. The addition of RAID 5 and RAID 10 will allow desktops to use as many four hard drives, versus the two-drive setups offered now.
Intel already offers a sister chip set to the 945X. The Intel 955X Express chip set, which shares many of the same features, was designed for high-end desktops, where it is paired with the dual-core Pentium Extreme Edition 840.
An Intel representative declined to comment on the launch date for the 945 chip set and Pentium D.
But even the new Intel platforms wont be without at least some competition for long. Advanced Micro Devices Inc. plans to announce soon the availability of its dual-core Athlon 64 X2 processors in consumer-oriented desktops. The company said in April that it would make that announcement in June.