Intel previews speed demons

Intel has spiced up Microsoft's developers conference with a peek at two of its key future technologies: The mobile chip Banias and the performance-boosting application it calls Hyper-Threading.

Banias is the first processor Intel has designed from the ground up for mobile use, said Paul Otellini, Intel's president and chief operating officer, in his keynote address at the Windows Hardware Engineering Conference here Thursday. "It's architected for convergence--an uncompromised mobile platform that integrates 802.11 capability," he said. Intel plans to launch the chip in 2003.

Earliest Demo

Intel received the first test silicon of the Banias chip last week, and opted to risk embarrassment by demonstrating it today, Otellini said.

Using a prototype chip set, Otellini and an assistant successfully streamed video content from the Web through the wireless connection and onto the video screen. It was the first public demonstration of a working Banias chip, he noted.

The assistant went on to try to complete a telephone call through the Web, but was unable to complete the call. The disconnect appeared to be a software problem, however, not a chip-related one.

Banias is a glimpse of tomorrow, but Intel has its eyes on the next day, too, Otellini said. Eventually every single Intel chip will contain a radio that handles wireless protocols, allowing users to move seamlessly among networks.

The company likes to call that initiative "Radio Free Intel," he said.

Stretching Chips

On the desktop, Intel continues to crank out faster processors: A 2.4-GHz P4 is available today, a 2.5-GHz P4 is scheduled to ship later this quarter, and a 3-GHz P4 is expected to ship this year, Otellini said. However, the company is still working to squeeze more performance from those chips, he said. To do so, Intel has created a technology it calls Hyper-Threading, which it demonstrated first at its own Intel Developer Forum last August.

Expected to appear in 2003, Hyper-Threading lets an operating system use the single physical processor as if it were two processors, he said. This can lead to a performance boost as high as 30 percent, depending on the application.

To demonstrate the technology, Otellini and an assistant used Microsoft's Moviemaker to encode a home movie clip, running it on two 3-GHz PCs, one with Hyper-Threading and one without. The test showed a 20 percent performance improvement, according to Otelleni. That may not be much time on a short video clip, but it's a savings of about 15 minutes on a two-hour video, noted the assistant.

In the second demonstration, both machines attempted to encode data while playing full-screen video. The standard 3-GHz PC stumbled, producing jerky video and sound, while the Hyper-Threading PC completed the job smoothly.

Innovation Anticipated

New chips like Banias and technologies such as Hyper-Threading will keep the technology industry moving forward, Otellini said. The industry has had a tough time recently, but innovation will lead the way back to success, he said.

"The goal we are working to bring computing to everyone anywhere, anytime," he said, echoing a Microsoft theme of the conference.

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Tom Mainelli

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