Intel reveals more upgrade details

Intel's latest roadmap shows where the company's focus is - multicore chips

Intel has outlined plans for its CPU products for the next several years, and there's only one thing on the chipmaker's mind -- sexy new multi-core technology.

Intel technical manager for Australia and New Zealand, Graham Tucker, spoke about the company's plans as the hardware giant unveiled the first five processors in its Pentium 4 6xx Sequence, all of which feature 2MB of secondary cache, twice as much as the current line of Pentium 4s.

The CPU line also features Intel's Extended Memory 64 technology, which allows compatibility with 64-bit applications, drivers and operating systems, as well as the company's Speedstep technology, which was previously only found in mobile and server processors. Speedstep allows a system to dynamically adjust its processor voltage and core frequency to achieve power savings.

Tucker said that Intel is planning for a Pentium range that will be 70 percent dual-core by the end of 2006. Intel's range of Pentium Extreme Edition CPUs will get dual-core technology first, said Tucker, with the other products to follow. The primary benefit of the Extreme Edition CPU featured in the 6xx Sequence is that it will have a higher system bus at 1066Mhz, compared with only 800Mhz for the other CPUs in the line. The Extreme Edition model also does not feature Speedstep technology, as Tucker pointed out that the high end of desktop computing users are not willing to sacrifice performance for a cheaper electrical bill.

Intel's strategy of moving towards dual, and later on multi-core technology, Tucker said, is driven by the simple performance gains that multi-core technology will bring. According to Tucker, by 2008 Intel will be able to offer consumers ten times the performance using multi-core technology than it would have been able to if it had continued along the single-core development track.

Tucker also weighed in on the 64-bit features of Intel's new CPU line, saying that although the 64-bit edition of Microsoft Windows XP isn't scheduled to ship until the second half of 2005, it was important that Intel developed the '64-bit ecosystem' in the same way that it developed an ecosystem for its Centrino line of processors. By ecosystem Intel is referring to the wider vendor-based software and hardware developer community that must exist to utilise its products, as well as the customer demand for the latest Intel technology.

And getting everything 64-bit ready is not as easy as recompiling a few drivers. Tucker said that for software to take advantage of 64-bit features developers would need to go through their old 32-bit code line-by-line, utilising along the way programming keywords specific to the 64-bit platform.

Tucker refused to be drawn on when Intel would ship its last 32-bit processor.

The news from Intel comes as competitor Advanced Micro Devices said it will show off a dual-core processor at its headquarters in the US this week. The chip, code-named Toledo, will feature two separate Athlon 64 processing cores on the same piece of silicon. It will start appearing in PCs in the second half of 2005, according to AMD Desktop Brand Manager Theresa DeOnis, desktop brand manager.

Renai LeMay reported from Sydney for ZDNet Australia. For more ZDNet Australia stories, click here.