2008 CPU forecast: Quad-cores for everyone!

What's in store for desktop processors this year? Computerworld makes its annual CPU prognostications

It's important to note that Nehalem does not represent a reduction in die size. This shift will come in 2009 when Intel shrinks the Nehalem architecture to 32nm in the processor family currently code-named Westmere. Assuming Intel stays on its tick-tock routine, in 2010 we'll see another brand new processor microarchitecture, currently code-named Gesher.

In terms of specific CPUs, the first wave of Nehalem desktop chips (currently code-named Bloomfield) will be released in late 2008. Internet speculation has indicated that the quad-core variants of these Nehalem-based Bloomfield processors will likely feature 8MB of shared L3 cache and sport three separate DDR3 memory channels. It's likely that we'll also see octo-core variants of Bloomfield in the fourth quarter of 2008 as well.

On the server side, Intel has two chips in development code-named Beckton and Gainestown. Internet rumors have indicated that Beckton will be a native octo-core CPU (with 16 cores available in a dual-socket configuration), while Gainestown will be more similar to Bloomfield.

Intel's mobile CPU highlights

-- Around March or April, Intel will release the mobile version of its Penryn processor under the Core 2 brand. Various mobile CPUs will be released throughout 2008, and it's highly likely that consumers will see quad-core mobile processors from Intel in the second half of the year, possibly as early as late spring. It is not clear what clock speed these processors will run at, but a version that Intel showed in October 2007 sported two shared 6MB L2 caches on the die.

-- In the same time frame, Intel will launch an all-new Centrino mobile platform code-named Montevina that includes a new CPU, a new chip set and a new wireless adapter. Montevina's new chip set is code-named Cantiga and will mark the debut of a 1066-MHz front-side bus at the mobile level. Shiloh, the code name for the new wireless adapter, has been rumored to support WiMax (also known as 802.16), a long-range protocol that theoretically permits the transmission of wireless data signals over ranges of up to 30 miles. (Note, however, that WiMax has never been put into practice in any consistent way.) Montevina is also rumored to support the new DisplayPort standard, which specifies a new methodology for connecting a PC to displays and external audio sources.

-- In the first half of 2008, Intel will release a new ultramobile processor code-named Silverthorne. This 45nm CPU is an integral component of Intel's future CPU plans, particularly in the expanding universe of smart phones and other Internet-ready handheld devices. The key to Silverthorne is its extremely low-power consumption. Intel has reported that these processors' power needs are about 15 times lower than the chip maker's lowest-power dual-core processor.

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George Jones

Computerworld
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