Intel shrinking chip design

Details of the new processor architecture will be made available at IEEE International Electronics Device Meeting in San Francisco on December 12, company officials said.

Working processors manufactured to the new specification will begin appearing on the market sometime in 2001, according to Intel spokesperson Howard High.

High said that all of Intel's high performance processors, namely the Pentium III, and the soon-to-be-released Pentium IV, and 64-bit Itanium processors, eventually will be manufactured to the 0.13 specification.

Currently, Intel manufactures its high-performance processors to the industry standard 0.18-micron architecture.

With the new processor architecture, Intel will join IBM and Motorola as the only PC processor manufacturers to use copper relays instead of aluminum. Copper is widely considered to be a better conductor for high-speed processors.

Officials at Intel's closest competitor, Advanced Micro Devices (AMD), said they don't expect to see 0.13-micron chips rolling out of AMD foundries before 2002.

Designing chips with smaller transistor relay architectures is a feat Intel has been able to accomplish about every two years. Intel's reduction from 0.25-micron architecture to 0.18-micron happened in late 1999 with the introduction of the Pentium III family of processors.

Reducing the size of the relays onboard a processor yields multiple advantages, according to Intel. The smaller architecture will allow Intel to build processors with more than a million transistors onboard, reduce the power consumption of the chips to 1.3 volts or less, and deliver processors that are better designed to operate in the 1-GH-plus range, company officials said.

Products based on the new 0.13 architecture will more than likely all operate in the 1-GH-plus range, High said.

Intel will continue to produce chips based on the 0.18-micron architecture while its foundries ramp up to the new 0.13 design.

High said that the first-generation Pentium IV processors and the first few generations of Itanium will ship at the 0.18 specification.

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Dan Neel

PC World

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