Intel uses forum to highlight its expanding reach

Intel's top executives will make a series of speeches during the four-day conference staring on 26 February in San Jose, California. Craig Barrett, president and chief executive officer of Intel, will open the event with a look at Internet architectures -- a theme which should recur throughout the show. Other officials including Ron Smith, vice president and general manager of Wireless communications, and Pat Gelsinger, vice president and chief technology officer, will address areas like wireless communications and peer-to-peer computing.

"We are still very bullish on the build-out of the Internet," said Robert Manetta, an Intel spokesman. "This is a chance for us to get together with other developers and share information about what is happening and what the trends are that we are seeing."

Analysts expect the keynote speeches to shed light on the chip behemoth's upcoming plans. The company has already touted advances with its recently launched Pentium 4 desktop processors and with its upcoming 64-bit Itanium processor, which Intel hopes will allow it to compete more effectively with high-end server chips like Sun Microsystems' Sparc processor.

Industry pundits expect to hear some updates about Itanium, which is due around mid-year, and about McKinley, the successor chip to Itanium which analysts say could be Intel's most potent weapon in the lucrative, high-end server market. Developers will likely also learn more about Foster, the code name for an upcoming version of the Pentium 4 that will be aimed at servers.

"Basically, Intel is going to be carrying forward on a number of themes that have already been established," said Nathan Brookwood, principal analyst at Insight 64. "We have been waiting patiently for Foster for a while," he added.

Kevin Krewell, a senior analyst at MicroDesign Resources, will also be on the prowl for Foster news, saying Intel needs to get the word out on its future products in order to keep developer interest high. "It's about Foster this year," he said. "It is essential that the infrastructure gets in place."

The interest in McKinley stems in part from a number of slips Intel has made while trying to roll out its 64-bit family. The Itanium project endured numerous delays and has forced server and software vendors to deal with a new architectural base for their own projects. With that in mind, Brookwood hopes for a fair amount more information on Intel's 64-bit plans.

The vendor is also expected to clarify its strategy for memory chips. Intel had previously committed itself to backing only Rambus DRAM (dynamic random access memory), but changed its tune with plans for a chipset codenamed "Brookdale" that gives PC makers the option to use an alternative high-speed memory type called DDR (double data rate) SDRAM (synchronous DRAM). Intel's support for DDR would help open up the playing field for memory makers working with the Pentium 4 and clarify a memory roadmap that has lacked clarity since the third quarter of last year, analysts said.

"They are in that awkward position where they have committed to Rambus," Krewell said.

For mobile users Intel will up the stakes in its battle with upstart rival Transmeta with the announcement Tuesday of a low-power, mobile processor and demonstrations of future mobile technologies, according to a conference schedule. Intel will likely also highlight X-Scale, a new microarchitecture that provides the basis for a new family of Intel processors for PDAs (personal digital assistants) and Web-enabled cell phones, as well as for networking storage products, routers and switches.

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Ashlee Vance

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