Intel hits the floor running, on all four

Chipmaker launches quad-core processors across three main platforms, months ahead of archrival. But, AMD says it won't bring forward its release date.

Intel today formally launched its first set of quad-core processors, which officials say should give the chipmaker a comfortable headstart on archrival AMD.

According to Adesh Gupta, Intel's Asia-Pacific platform architecture manager, the company's quad-core Xeon 5300 and Core 2 Extreme QX6700 chipsets are now available across three platforms: servers, high-end workstations and enthusiast PCs.

Today's announcement puts Intel several months ahead of Advanced Micro Devices (AMD), which is not due to release its quad-core offerings until mid-2007.

But while Intel's quad-core chips were built by melding two of its duo-core processors into a single package, AMD's quad-core design will put four processing cores on a single piece of silicon. The difference in approach, Intel has acknowledged, is its attempt to stay ahead of the game, although AMD has argued that its quad-core design architecture will trump Intel's in terms of performance and power efficiencies.

AMD, it appears, remains unfazed.

Company officials in Singapore told ZDNet Asia that the company has no plans to bring forward its scheduled launch date next year.

According to Tan See Ghee, South Asia technology manager at AMD Far East, the company dishes out new technologies when it "makes sense" for its customers.

Tan said: "Our current guidance is that true 'quad-core' processors will be released in the second half of 2007. Our philosophy remains that we bring products to customers when they need it.

"We believe the software industry is headed toward multi-threaded applications and once again, AMD is setting the course for the industry with the only plan for a multi-core and multi-socket PC future," he said, noting that early quad-core adopters will likely benefit from digital media applications and hardware/software benchmarking tools such as 3DMark06.

Tan said that AMD will go ahead with plans to launch "higher performance desktop parts" before the end of 2006. "We are not standing still," he said.

He added that Intel's platform architecture remains unproven, whereas the AMD64 architecture has "earned more than 200 industry awards".

Intel's Gupta, however, told ZDNet Asia that his company's quad-core chips have produced between 50 and 80 percent improvements in performance over current Intel duo-core Xeon processors.

In addition, the new quad-core chips run on the same power envelop--at 80 watts power consumption, he said.

Gupta noted that one of the concerns customers have is that multi-core processors will emit more heat.

"This isn't true for our quad-core chips, which run on the same power consumption as our duo-core offerings but with 50 to 80 percent performance gain," he said.

On top of that, he added, Intel's current quad-core offerings are available at "mainstream price points". In fact, Gupta said, Intel's quad-core Xeon EE5345, E5320 and E5310 are sold at the same price as its duo-core Xeon 5160, 5150 and 5140, respectively.

Intel is also betting on its network of ISVs (independent software vendors), OEM (original equipment manufacturer) partners and resellers, to put the chip giant ahead of the game.

Gupta said: "AMD doesn't have quad core... We have eight to 10 months lead before they come up with it. We have a strong ecosystem of channel partners, ISVs and OEMs across the Asia-Pacific region that are adopting our quad-core products and will be ramping up [their offerings] significantly."

Companies that have committed to rolling out hardware and software products based on Intel's quad-core platform include IBM, Dell Computer, Oracle, Adobe and Hewlett-Packard, he said.

Gupta said: "We believe that by the time our competition gets out in the market, we will have our quad-core [products] already running across the various platforms, and running various apps our customers need."

Intel's quad-core Xeon X5355, E5345, E5320 and E5310 are priced at US$1,172, US$851, US$690 and $455, respectively. The Intel Core 2 Extreme QX6700 is priced at US$999.

According to Gupta, Intel is expecting to ship over a million quad-core CPUs over the next three quarters.

Patrick Liew, Intel's Singapore country manager, added that the company has--to date--shipped over 40 million processors based on its 65-nanometer processor architecture.