Quad-cores may be mainstream by 2009

Analysts predict that Intel's quad-core processors will move out of the high-end niche into the mainstream within two years

Quad-core CPUs will witness rapid acceptance by 2009, according to iSuppli, a market research company.

Currently, sales of Intel servers and high-end PCs that use Intel quad-core processors are growing very quickly, and Intel's rival AMD is set to launch its own quad-core processor this year. So far, the high cost and limited availability of quad-core microprocessors has restricted their use to the high end of the PC market. The price for a quad-core microprocessor is as much as 170 percent higher than for a dual-core chip, according to iSuppli.

"Quad-core microprocessor technology is coming to the mainstream, and with it are coming capabilities that are presently reserved only for high-end systems," said Matthew Wilkins, principal iSuppli analyst for computer platforms.

In the high-end market, sales of quad-core machines are growing quickly, but they are still in the minority. In the first quarter of 2007, only 16 percent of performance desktop PCs were based on quad-core microprocessors. But the researchers believe this will change dramatically, as costs decrease. By the fourth quarter of this year, sales in the high end are estimated to grow to 33 percent, rising to 94 percent by the fourth quarter of 2009.

Meanwhile, for mainstream desktops — those priced between $500 (£250) and $1,000 (£499) — iSuppli says that sales of machines with quad-core processors have been extremely limited so far, and will rise to only seven percent by the end of the year.

While iSuppli sees an immediate boom for quad-core on the desktop, it sees no early take-up for laptops and notebooks before the beginning of 2009. By the fourth quarter of this year, quad core will be in 11 percent of mainstream notebook PCs shipped, the analysts predict.