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Intel Outlines Plans for Next-Generation Processors

As expected, microprocessor giant Intel yesterday revealed sweeping changes to its entire product line, in which core technology from the company's Pentium M mobile chips will be ported to its desktop and server products over the next two years. The change means that Intel will focus less on increasingly meaningless gigahertz ratings and more on multiple-core chips that feature better power management and energy saving functionality in addition to raw performance.

"We need to think about measuring performance against a new metric, and that is performance per watt," said Intel CEO Paul Otellini during a keynote address at the company's annual developer confab, the Intel Developer Forum (IDF).  Otellini says that Intel is now targeting a meager 5 watts of power consumption for mobile chips, 65 watts for desktop chips, and 80 watts for server chips. Today's desktop microprocessors consume 80 to 120 watts of power, he said.

To meet these specifications, Intel is revamping every microprocessor product it makes. Although the company didn't divulge any new branding for these chips, it did reveal a few details about the products it expects to ship over the next few years. A next-generation Pentium M chip for mobile computers, codenamed Yohan, will be the first microprocessor in the new wave. Due in early 2006, Yohan will feature dual processor cores and 64-bit capabilities, and will double the performance of today's Pentium M chips. A future generation Pentium M is codenamed Merom and will offer even better power savings and performance.

In the second half of 2006, Intel will begin shipping a successor to the Pentium 4 and Pentium D chips, which are designed for desktop computers. These chips, codenamed Conroe, will feature dual cores and 64-bit capabilities but will consume far less power than today's desktop chips. Similar upgrades to the Xeon line--codenamed Woodcrest--are expected in late 2006 as well. Otellini didn't mention the Itanium, but the company previously revealed plans to migrate that line of processors to dual-core designs by the end of 2005.

On the low-end, Intel is also working on a super-low-power version of its existing Pentium 4 design that will consume just one-half watt of power and be used to power a new type of handheld computer Otellini referred to as a hand-top. This system will be powerful enough to run Windows Vista and will ship before 2010, he said.

By 2007, Intel will begin switching its chips over to four core designs, once again doubling the processing capacity per chip.

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