Intel sheds light on 2005 desktop strategy

Intel's products for the digital home and digital office in 2005 will give consumers and IT managers more capabilities than just raw performance, and the company plans to highlight those products as it did with its Centrino mobile technology, Intel executives said Tuesday.

During a presentation for financial analysts in New York that also was webcast, Intel President and Chief Operating Officer Paul Otellini promised that Intel learned a great deal during a tumultuous 2004, when the company tore up its road map for desktop and server processors after realizing that its planned high-frequency single-core products would be too difficult to manufacture in volume. Earlier this year, Intel canceled two single-core desktop and server designs and announced plans to accelerate the development of dual-core processors.

The company listened to CIOs (chief information officers) and other customers about what they want to see in Intel products, and its future products should reflect those wishes, Otellini said. Instead of just performance, customers now want manageability features and lower power consumption, he said.

As a result, Intel is planning to design and market its desktop processors in platforms, akin to the way the company brought the Pentium M processor, a new mobile chipset and new wireless capabilities to customers as part of the Centrino platform.

"As we go forward, the example we look at is Centrino. We'll do similar things for the digital home and digital office over time," Otellini said.

Lyndon is the code name for Intel's first Centrino-like desktop platform, Otellini said. It will target both the digital home and digital office in 2005 and feature Pentium 4 processors with 2M bytes of cache and 64-bit extensions to the x86 instruction set, Otellini said.

Intel will "aggressively" bring 64-bit capabilities to its desktop processors in the first half of 2005, said Bill Kircos, an Intel spokesman. Intel previously said it would turn on the 64-bit extensions within the Prescott processor when operating system support became available, and Microsoft's 64-bit Windows XP operating system is scheduled to ship in the first quarter of next year after many delays.

Lyndon's chipset will support Intel's AMT (active management technology) feature for helping IT managers access inactive PCs hooked up to a company's network. The entire platform will also make use of Intel's Enhanced SpeedStep technology, a mobile feature that regulates power consumption by scaling back processor frequency during periods of inactivity.

In 2006, Intel will bring out the Bridge Creek and Averill platforms for the digital home and digital office. These platforms will feature Intel's security and virtualization technologies that it highlighted at recent Intel Developer Forum conferences. Microsoft's next update to the Windows operating system, code-named Longhorn, will be required to take advantage of the hardware-based security and virtualization technologies that Intel plans for 2006, Otellini said.

Despite all the focus on platform technologies, Intel does in fact still make microprocessors. The single-core Pentium 4 processors with 2M bytes of cache memory will be followed by the dual-core Smithfield processor in late 2005, Otellini said. Smithfield is based on two Prescott processor cores, or the 90 nanometer version of Intel's Pentium 4 processor. The Smithfield design will be followed in 2006 by the 65 nm Cedar Mill design, Otellini said. The company demonstrated a video editing application running on a Smithfield PC, and showed a silicon wafer made up of Cedar Mill chips.

Otellini did not provide specific code names for Intel's plans on the server side, but Xeon server processors are generally based on the same processor designs as the desktop chips. Intel adds reliability features and subjects server chips to far more extensive testing, but otherwise Xeon chips tend to follow suit with desktop chips. Otellini did say that Intel will bring its security and virtualization technologies to Xeon processors in 2006.

Intel's strategy on the mobile side of its business has been clear for several months. Otellini reiterated plans to bring out the Sonoma platform in the first quarter as an update to the original Centrino design. The Alviso chipset within Sonoma was supposed to launch this year, but fell victim to the numerous delays experienced by Intel this year. Alviso adds support for DDR2 (double data rate 2) memory and the PCI Express interconnect technology, which both debuted on the desktop earlier this year.

Yonah is the code name for Intel's first dual-core mobile processor, initially revealed by sources earlier this year and confirmed by Otellini in September. Yonah will be built on the company's 65 nm process technology and paired with the Calistoga chipset on the Napa platform.

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