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This week in chips

AMD turns its attention to gadgets with new energy-efficient Geode chips, while Intel launches new dual-core Pentium D processors for desktop PCs.

Processors are in season as chipmakers harvest new crops.

Advanced Micro Devices is turning its attention to the consumer electronics market with a line of Geode chips for gadgets. The new Geode LX800 is an energy-efficient processor for small computers, set-top boxes, TVs and handhelds. The chip runs at 533MHz and is said to provide the equivalent performance of an 800MHz processor from Via Technologies.

Although that's far less oomph than comes with notebook and desktop chips, the processor only consumes about 0.9 watts and does not require heat sinks or fans. This lowers both cost and the overall volume of devices. At the same time, it's an x86 chip, so all the conventional software produced for desktops will run on it.


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Meanwhile, Intel is keeping busy with its Pentium line. The chipmaker launched new dual-core Pentium D processors and supporting chipsets designed for home and business desktop PCs.

The chips are part of the second dual-core Pentium line Intel has unveiled in as many months. Intel's Pentium 4 Extreme Edition chips were released in April. Now, Intel will offer new 800-series desktop Pentiums in three speeds: 3.2GHz, 3GHz and 2.8GHz.

The initiative is part of the chipmaker's Professional Business Platform, or PBP, and the so-called "platform-ization" of its products--or Intel's effort to market chips based on capabilities other than simply clock speed and to sell supporting technologies along with them.

Intel is also reportedly in talks with Apple Computer to supply chips to the Mac maker. While the idea has been floated for years, this time there appears to be a little more impetus for Apple to convert.

Apple also needs a low-power chip, similar to the processor in Intel's Centrino bundle, for the growing laptop market. IBM currently supplies processors for Apple's G5 desktops, but the chip runs on a maximum of 100 watts--quite a bit of power--and dissipates so much heat that laptops with the chip haven't emerged.

But now comes the tough part. If Apple did port its OS and other applications so that the software would run on Intel chips, it opens the possibility that hackers and clone manufacturers could assemble their own Mac PCs with cheap, generic hardware and store-bought copies of Apple's software.