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Otellini outlines new chip architecture

Intel's CEO sees up to a tenfold reduction in power consumption by the end of the decade because of design changes.

SAN FRANCISCO--At the opening keynote at Intel's autumn 2005 developer forum here Tuesday, Chief Executive Paul Otellini announced a new chip architecture and a new class of computer.

Paul Otellini
CEO, Intel

The next-generation power-optimized microarchitecture, whose name was not revealed, combines elements of the NetBurst design behind the Pentium 4. It will be the basis for three new 65-nanometer dual-core products to be launched in the second half of 2006: Woodcrest for servers, Conroe for desktops and Merom for mobile use. All three products will share common features such as 64-bit compatibility, virtualization, trusted platform support and management features.

Otellini showed off systems based on prototypes of the new chips, running Windows and Linux.

By the end of the decade, Otellini said, Intel would have another new architecture running x86 code as low as 0.5 watt--that is, about one-tenth the demand of the lowest-power version currently available. This could either be used for portable systems running at very low power, or standard systems running at 10 times the performance per watt of current designs, he suggested.

Intel also showed off prototypes of a new style of portable computer, the "handtop." These combined the performance of PCs with the portability of handsets, Otellini said, with all-day batteries and always-connected wireless. The devices could be configured in PDA, BlackBerry or laptop mode, and would run fully featured operating systems.

Intel has been working around low-power designs, Otellini said, in an effort to move toward the company's goal of a computer that can run for eight hours straight, with some added energy saving benefits.

"Given the power reduction with Merom and Conroe and today's California electricity costs, computer users can save $1 billion per year for every 100 million (computer) units sold. And that doesn't include the cost of cooling," Otellini said.

Intel and analysts predict that as many as 200 million computers may be sold this year alone. But Otellini said the new generation of processors would also run well in desktop PCs that would not need a fan to cool them and very thin servers known as blades.

"Servers and desktops have been in need of power for some time and chipmakers realized this immediately when the pure performance vector wasn't working," said Roger Kay, president of market research firm Endpoint Technologies Associates. "In the digital home, you need quiet. You can't have a PC running in your living room that sounds like a 747 jumbo jet. With energy costs going up, servers do use a lot of juice. By reducing the heat envelope, (server makers) can build servers that are housed closer together."

CNET's Michael Singer contributed to this report.