Intel Takes Next Step in Chip Design

Today, Intel will outline an evolutionary breakthrough in chip design that will let the company use the smaller, less power-hungry designs that are necessary to keep microprocessors on track with Moore's Law. Stung that Intel was ready to make an announcement, IBM will also announce that it will be ready with a similar chip design change, although IBM's new chips will trail Intel's by several months.

Intel essentially figured out how to make microprocessors on a 45nm process, which is much smaller and more efficient than the 60nm process typically used today. Various process makers have been working on this sort of miniaturization, but until now they had run into problems with electrical leakage at the smaller die size. To overcome this problem, Intel is replacing some of the standard silicon components in its chips with a metal called Hafnium. Intel said Hafnium is a better insulator than silicon.

IBM's breakthrough chip is reportedly quite similar to Intel's and will also apparently use Hafnium. Both companies are touting these advances as radical breakthroughs, but the reality is that these chip changes simply let both Intel and IBM continue on their current roadmaps, in which they plan to release new, smaller chip designs every two years. Intel will ship its new chips by late 2007, and AMD plans to ship chips that use IBM's designs sometime in 2008.

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