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Don't bet on dual core Prescotts, Intel says

Flash flood? Flash drought
Sun May 16 2004, 09:12
THE Q&A SESSION at the end of Intel's presentation to the financial powers last week brought out some snippets of information that shouldn't go unnoticed.

While some brave analysts pushed Intel's top management to talk more about flash memory, where Chipzilla has been lagging of late, the proverb "less said, more easily mended" came to mind.

Dr Craig Barrett did say that Intel was still committed to the flash memory market, but quipped that most of the analysts there were too young to remember that the firm got out of making DRAM many years ago.

Meanwhile, cheeky Cockney chappie Sean Maloney, who took over the flash division last year after Ron "a billion is a lot of anything" Smith left to spend more time with his family, would only say: "The NOR market is improving".

Many of the questions were related to Intel's Blue Crystal Project for 2005 - multicore microprocessors. Paul Otellini, Intel's president, went out of his way to say that the firm had absolutely no thermal problems with its 90 nanometre technology, despite speculation.

He said Intel could easily hit the 4GHz envelope with Prescott during 2004.

As for code for multicores, Otrellini said that in the server space there is already both pre-existing code and applications. For clients, that is to say desktops, the existing Windows XP version already supported hyperthreading and there's over 165 applications optimised for this.

Multicores, he added, are "capacity neutral" for 2005, and fit in at the top of the line.

He said: "If we had not started making this right hand turn we would have run into a power wall which the graphics guys are seeing today. We think we can still deliver more performance inside a better thermal envelope."

While four core server multiprocessors are a way away, putting together such cores to create 16-way server cores wasn't beyond Intel's vision.

Will notebooks and desktops merge? Otellini said there's been a lot of speculation about that. He said: "The feature set for multicore gives us the ability over time to converge our cores much more synergistically than we have in the past. That doesn't mean the same chip will go into different form factors. You'll see more common architecture but not the same implementation of the chip. It will happen in the continuity of time".

We think that's a yes, then.

Dual core silicon is already available in the chipset but when an analyst asked Otellini if there would be a dual core Prescott, he appeared to pour cold water on the idea.

He said: "That's a leap of faith you shouldn't make. I'm not prepared to give you the details of the dual core processor today".

There will be architectural differences in chipsets for dual core chips however, he added.

The main news point, said Otellini, is multicores and not 64-bitness. He said: "Not every register needs to go to 64-bits. I believe the move to apps that take advantage of 64-bit extensions will be slower than the software base to take advantage of multicores".

He said that 64-bit apps are likely to be thin on the ground for quite some time. "It's not until after Longhorn that Office will start to adapt". µ


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