Beyond dual core: 2007 desktop CPU road map

What a difference a year makes. One year ago, we were dazed, dazzled, and beguiled by the arrival of dual-core processors. Offerings from Intel and Advanced Micro Devices had analysts, journalists, IT professionals and enthusiasts all gushing with praise for a bright new multitasking future.

Amazingly, both Intel and AMD were able to deliver on the potential of dual-core processing. Throughout 2006, desktop PCs played host to a series of processors that, while slower at the clock-speed level, were faster in real-life usage, allowing for unprecedented amounts of multitasking.

As the calendar flips to 2007, we are firmly entrenched in the world of multicore processors. And, based upon the confidential road maps of both Intel and AMD, it is clear that dual-core CPUs are only the launching point for the future of the microprocessor. In 2007, quad cores and even eight-core CPUs will be available. By 2009, there's a good chance that sixteen-core processors will be on the market.

As we enter 2007, five key questions regarding the pending year's CPU battle are on our minds:

1. Will AMD be able to continue its dominance in the desktop market?

2. How will Intel capitalize upon the success of Core 2?

3. Will AMD be able to match the success of Intel's Core 2 processors?

4. When will the market see true quad-core and even eight-core processors?

5. What surprises do the chip makers have up their sleeves?

With all this in mind, we're taking an extended look at the processors and processor trends you can expect to see in 2007. Not surprisingly, neither AMD nor Intel was willing to divulge many specifics regarding their CPU releases for the coming year. So we scoured the Net, pored over statements from both companies and dug into reports from the host of analysts and experts who cover them.

It's worth noting that much of the information in this road map is preliminary and code-name-level information. As such, the specifics of the processors could change in coming months.

Intel advances

Extensive digging has revealed a good portion of Intel's plan for increasing desktop market share in the coming year. Not surprisingly, the bulk of the company's processor road map revolves around the Core microprocessor architecture, formerly code-named "Merom." One of the smashing success stories of 2006, Core 2 processors offer unparalleled levels of performance per watt of energy consumed and may allow Intel to recapture market share lost to AMD over the past three years. (Core 2 processors are based on the Core architecture; so-called Core processors were based on the company's previous Pentium 4/M architecture.)

In attempt to round out its desktop CPU portfolio in the first half of 2007, Intel will focus on several new processor families based on the Core 2 architecture at all performance levels, including a new value line that uses Core 2 at the Celeron level. Details follow:

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