Intel expects twins in the second quarter

On the way is a pair of dual-core chips. The first: a processor to power machines for game players and multimedia enthusiasts.

John G. Spooner Staff Writer, CNET News.com
John Spooner
covers the PC market, chips and automotive technology.
John G. Spooner
3 min read
Intel has hotrod desktop PCs in mind for its first dual-core processors.

The chipmaker said Monday that it will launch a pair of dual-core processors for high-end desktops during the second quarter. In doing so, Intel narrowed the time frame for when its first dual-core chip will be available to consumers and businesses. Previously, the company had said only that it would be available in 2005.

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A dual-core chip is one that places two processor cores in one chip package. Intel discussed the new technology at the International Solid-State Circuits Conference, or ISSCC, being conducted this week in San Francisco.

Intel says its first dual-core chip will be an Intel Pentium Processor Extreme Edition designed to power desktops for PC enthusiasts such as game players and those who work with multimedia such as music and video.

Extreme Edition will offer Intel's HT Technology, otherwise known as hyperthreading, allowing it to simultaneously process four threads, or streams of data (two threads per core), an Intel representative said. Given its advertised performance, Extreme Edition will likely come in systems that inhabit the upper reaches of the desktop PC market, such as Dell's Dimension XPS. Dell said Monday that it would offer dual-core chips from Intel in Dell-brand desktops.

Intel will follow Extreme Edition with a standard dual-core desktop processor known by the code-name Smithfield. That chip will also come out during the second quarter, the representative said.

Together, the two chips will use performance to elbow their way into the desktop market. Given their advertised edge in performance compared with single-core chips, the new dual-core chips are a natural offering for high-end machines, Intel argues. Intel has said that a dual-core chip could speed up PCs by a large percentage by dividing up the job of processing data.

Of the two types of chip, it's Smithfield that's likely to offer lower prices and performance and therefore show up in somewhat less-expensive configurations.

Intel will use dual-core chips in many other areas as well. The desktop announcement is expected to be the first of many unveilings for the chipmaker during the course of this year and beyond. The company plans to offer either dual-core or multicore chips (which pack four or more processor cores) in all of its product lines in the near future. Overall, the company is working on working on more than 10 multicore processor projects, the representative said.

Also this week at ISSCC, the chipmaker is expected to discuss Montecito, a forthcoming dual-core version of its Itanium server chip.

Yet despite offering a few more details on its dual-core desktop chips, Intel was mum on many other specifics, including clock speeds. Instead, the company representative said only that the first dual-core desktop chips will run more slowly than today's speediest single-core chips. Intel's fastest desktop chip is its Pentium 4, which runs at 3.8GHz.

Intel isn't the only chipmaker expecting twins, however. Nearly every company that offers processors has multicore ambitions. IBM, for one, has been selling dual-core chips for servers for a few years, while ARM sells dual-core chips for cell phones.

Intel's PC rival, Advanced Micro Devices, has also said it will create chips with two, four and eight cores, starting with dual-core chips this year.

Hector Ruiz, AMD's chief executive, said recently that AMD aims to offer a dual-core Opteron server chip during the summer.

Although its focus is on dual-cores, Intel will continue to offer single-core processors for some time. It plans to boost the performance of its current line of single-core Pentium 4s, for example, and sell them alongside its dual-core offerings.