Big news from AMD. Not only has the chip maker confirmed that it will release a six-core processor sometime next year, but that the piece will be backwards compatible with existing AM3 and AM2+ motherboards.The processor, codenamed "Thuban" is based on 45nm architecture and will feature an integrated DDR2/DDR3 controller. The chip is based on AMD's six-core Opteron chip. It is expected that the piece will be called Phenom II X6.
While not announced, I expect that the part will have expected to have 3MB of L2 and 6MB of L3 cache. As for clock speeds, it is likely to lower than that of AMD's quad core parts in order to keep the heat down.
It's interesting that AMD is choosing to support existing AM3 and AM2+ motherboards with this new technology - that should be of great interest to those interesting in upgrading.
All questions relating to price and exact availability have to remain as questions for the time being.
My biggest question relating to six-core CPUs is this - will users see a benefit? Going from single core to dual-core is a huge leap in performance, and depending on what you are using your PC for, four cores can be worth the cost. But at present I'm somewhat skeptical as to the performance gains of going beyond four cores. I really want to see software catch up with the multi-core thinking. As single-core fades into the past, and quad-core CPUs fall to under $100, I think that developers will have to start making better use of multiple cores available to them.