Intel has confirmed that in future all its chips will be multicore and has revealed additional desktop, server and mobile processor plans.
In a briefing on Tuesday, Stephen Smith, vice-president for Intel's desktop platforms group, said the desktop-oriented "Smithfield", whose existence he publicly confirmed for the first time, is to be a 90 nanometer dual-core processor. Smith would neither confirm nor deny whether it would still be called a Pentium 4. It is due out in 2005.
By 2006, Intel expects to have moved Smithfield's production to a 65 nanometer process and be in the throes of designing multicore desktop chips. However, it is not clear whether the dual-core chip will be a new design or simply a pair of existing P4 chips in one package.
Server chips are already moving towards dual-core and, said Smith. By the end of 2006, Intel expects that a full 85% of server processor shipments will consist of dual-core products and desktop and mobile chips will only have reached 70%. Considering only 65% of its shipments this year consist of its hyper-threaded technology, these are aggressive plans.
Smith took pains to highlight Intel's considerable global resarch and development and production facilities, and said these would be brought to bear on the problem. According to Smith, the upshot will be performance improvements at a processor level of up to 10-fold over the next four years. He said had Intel stuck with hyper-threaded technology and boosted the speed of the chips, performance improvements would only be three-fold.
"With dual core we can assign increased hardware support for each thread and get stronger benefit for threaded execution compared to hyper-threading," he said. "With hyper-threading technology the hardware could just cope - going multicore means going onto further cores over time - four or more."
Smith also said Smithfield would fit into the same "thermal envelope" as the Prescott chip, meaning they will not use much more power and therefore generate much more heat.
Manek Dubash writes for the IDG News Service