IDF Taiwan: Show in review

At Intel Developer Forum this week, the chipmaker shows off upcoming computing technologies, including its Santa Rosa mobile chip.

TAIPEI, TAIWAN--At the Intel Developer Forum (IDF) held here this week, the chip giant showcased several emerging technologies in the computing as well as other fast-growing domains, including its upcoming Santa Rosa mobile chip and digital healthcare.

We put the spotlight on some of these tools and applications, and find out what the market can expect from Intel in the coming months, and years.

With video-quality gaming, Internet video streaming and high-definition video playback gaining momentum, Intel is pressing ahead with its proposition for increased processing power.

To supplement its existing series of Core 2 Duo processors, it is launching the new quad-core Core 2 Extreme (codename Kentsfield) chips in November 2006. This will be followed closely by the Core 2 Quad family targeted for the mainstream market in the first quarter of 2007.

Intel is also betting its chips heavily on the 45-nanometer silicon manufacturing technology. Gearing up for the scheduled second half-2007 production is the Fab D1D facility in Oregon, built at a cool US$3 billion. Its heavy investment does seem to be making good returns as the company has announced that up to 15 45-nanometer products are currently in development.

Moving beyond the Core microarchitecture, Intel is looking at rolling out redesigned 45- and 32-nanometer replacements. Codenamed Nehalam and Gesher, the new microarchitectures are slated for release in 2008 and 2010, respectively. These, the chipmaker claims, will enable a staggering 300-plus percent performance per watt improvement over the former.

Santa Rosa and UMPC for mobiles
More in-depth details on the upcoming Santa Rosa mobile platform were unveiled during the keynote presentation here at IDF.

Besides a speedy 800MHz front-side bus (FSB), the Merom processor will also deliver extended battery life performance. This is achieved via new power conservation capabilities from an Enhanced Deeper Sleep idle state and Dynamic FSB switching that features a super Low Frequency Mode.

Looking ahead from 2008 and beyond, Intel is forecasting a new generation of feature-rich thin-and-lights and small-form-factor offerings. These will come standard with multi-radio networking, next-generation HD-DVD and Blu-ray drives, and integrated TV tuners for anytime/anywhere connectivity and on-the-go entertainment.

A number of Ultra Mobile PCs (UMPC) were showcased as well. Among them are Sony's Vaio VGN-UX50, the sub-US$400 Classmate PC and a Yahoo UMPC lookalike. The latter is a handsome-looking orange concoction which swivels and slides open to reveal a QWERTY keyboard. That is besides a rotating camera for snapshots and Wi-Fi connectivity for Web surfing.

Multi-radio mobile networking
Redefining the boundaries of WiMax application was the recently-launched WiMax Connection 2250 chip for fixed and mobile networks. Codenamed Rosedale 2 and hailed as the industry's first dual-mode WiMax offering, it is compatible with both IEEE 802.16d and 802.16e standards. The former can be easily upgraded over the wire to conform to the more advanced "e" variant.

Also on this wireless broadband technology roadmap is the Ofer-R multimode chipset capable of supporting both Wi-Fi and WiMax. Scheduled for release in 2008, this world-first innovation will bring consumers one step closer to multiple radios, and perhaps mixed networking environments.

With the performance of up to five times the throughput and twice the range of its 802.11g Wi-Fi counterpart, the "N" draft standard has Intel back on the drawing board for a mobile solution. This comes in the form of the low-power Kedron chipset implemented on an add-on card to be debuted as a subsystem of the Santa Rosa platform.

Tera- to Peta-scale super computing
To meet the demands of computing-intensive mega datacenters powering popular Web services the likes of YouTube and Yahoo, Intel is actively researching new technologies for future platforms. One example is the tera-scale computing research program centered on tera-ops performance, terabyte bandwidth and terabit data transmission.

Showcased during the keynote was an 80-core prototype designed to deliver the future teraflops processing requirement. A high-performance chip is simply not good enough without complementing subsystems. For this matter, Intel is deploying a high-speed stacked (on processor) memory and laser-based data bus systems to ensure sustained data exchange.

Intel is also looking beyond tera-scale into the realm of peta-scale computing. This arises from the high-performance computing (HPC) segment which consumes up to 1 zetaflop instructions in the field of computational chemistry. To answer the needs of these super-computing datacenters, the company is planning to increase throughput through software and hardware parallelism.

It has forecasted peta-scale capability in 2010, utilizing the accumulated number-crunching power of over 10,000 multithreaded core processors, and that the desktop processor will reach early HPC performance by 2008 or 2009.

Technology for better health
Picture this. By 2050, over 21 percent of the global population will be aged over 60 as forecasted by the United Nations. This aggravates the pressure of global economies and raises the challenge facing the three fundamental healthcare issues of cost, quality of care and access to care.

To tackle the issues, Intel is proposing a healthcare transformation through an integrated digital hospital.

Accelerating the pace of this transition is the responsibility of a non-profit open industry alliance of global healthcare and tech companies under the Continua Health Alliance. As a promoter of the 55 member-strong consortium, Intel is harnessing its know-how in developing new platforms for the industry. The Personal Health System and Mobile Clinical Assistant are two examples.

Built on Intel architecture, the Personal Health System concept platform realizes the requirements of an eldercare monitoring system. Interlinked wirelessly with home sensors and medical equipment, it enables real-time feedback of a patient's health conditions while providing a gateway for medical assistance with doctors in hospitals via video-conferencing capability.

On the other receiving end is the Mobile Clinical Assistant designed to enhance productivity of nursing staff fueled by a growing shortage of such professionals. Tailored specifically with rugged waterproof capability, long battery life and network support, the portable device enables nurses to perform tasks such as prescribing medication for the patient on-the-go.

Philip Wong of CNETAsia filed this report from Taipei.