Tech Industry

This week in chips

First wave of new chips are for desktops (Intel) and servers (AMD). When the software bill comes, do they count once or twice?

Intel may have come out with dual-core processors a few days earlier than Advanced Micro Devices, but AMD says it is bringing dual-core chips to the market where it counts.

AMD on Thursday released its first three dual-core Opteron processors for servers. Sometime during the next two months, it plans to follow that release with three more server chips and a desktop line.

Server customers will be able to capitalize on the dual-core performance almost immediately. Several applications and operating systems have already been retrofitted for running on dual-processor systems. Hewlett-Packard, IBM and others will insert the dual-core Opterons into servers.

Intel's dual-core chips, which debuted Monday, are designed for desktops. Versions of its Xeon server chips won't come out until early 2006.

HP has upgraded a four-processor server with AMD's new dual-core Opteron and introduced a blade server with the chip. The ProLiant DL585 system will be available with all three speed grades of the new Opteron--1.8Gz, 2.0GHz and 2.2GHz--said Steve Cumings, manager of HP's ProLiant Opteron systems group. And in an effort to encourage fast adoption, HP is charging the same for a system with 1.8GHz dual-core processors as it would for the existing products with 2.6GHz single-core chips.

The new BL45p blade system, announced Thursday, is HP's first four-Opteron blade, and it brings a substantial change: It's half the size of the existing Xeon model. Four machines can fit into a 10.5-inch-tall chassis compared with two Xeon-based BL40p models.

PC makers got in on the act by rolling out their first dual-core processor desktop PCs--and they aren't cheap. Alienware, Dell and lesser-known maker Velocity Micro are among the first to begin taking orders on dual-core desktops. Their machines are based on Intel's Pentium Processor Extreme Edition 840 processor, the first dual-core PC processor to hit the market.

The desktops, which start at about $2,300 to $3,000, are aimed at home multimedia and game enthusiasts who want the latest technology, as well as professionals in areas such as video editing.

The chips represent Intel's latest thinking on advancing PC processors. Instead of driving rapid increases in speed, the chipmaker is now focusing on adding performance by stuffing additional processor cores into each of its chips, as well as building in new features such as virtualization, which helps carve a PC into different partitions to simultaneously tackle different jobs.