Intel defends its base as mobile future awaits

Intel's successful launch of the Centrino brand - with its notebook processor, chipset and wireless chip earlier this year - was...

Intel's successful launch of the Centrino brand - with its notebook processor, chipset and wireless chip earlier this year - was as important as the launch of Pentium in 1993, said Anand Chandrasekher, vice president and general manager of Intel's mobility products group.

Last week Intel unveiled the next-generation Sonoma platform for notebooks at its Fall Intel Developer Forum. It will probably carry the Centrino brand name in one form or another.

Sonoma will feature Dothan, which is the 90-nanometer version of the Pentium M processor, the Alviso chipset, and a dual-band version of Intel's Pro/Wireless chip with support for multiple 802.11 standards. It will be released sometime in 2004.

Intel also announced the version of its XScale technology for mobile phones and personal digital assistants this week. Bulverde is the codename for a series of processors that will appear in 2004, said Ron Smith, senior vice president and general manager of Intel's wireless communications and computing group.

But analysts perceived that the two most important announcements for Intel came out of its desktop and server divisions.

The company launched the Pentium 4 Extreme Edition chip, beating Advanced Micro Devices Athlon 64 desktop processor announcement which is due this week .

Intel's latest chip is a desktop version of its Xeon MP server processor with an 800MHz front-side bus, a different thermal design, and without support for use in multiprocessor systems, said Kevin Krewell, senior editor of the Microprocessor Report.

The processor will debut at 3.2GHz, with 2Mbytes of Level 3 cache. Intel's existing Pentium 4 chips have 512K bytes of cache.

On the server side, Intel put a dual-core Xeon chip, known as Tulsa, on its roadmap for around 2006. The company has discussed its plans for bringing multiple cores to its Itanium processors in the past, so the announcement wasn't entirely unexpected, Brookwood said.

Intel officially announced the multicore Tanglewood processor this week, after announcing the dual core Montecito Itanium processor earlier this year. Sources Tanglewood will come with eight cores when it is released in 2006.

With signs of improvement in the PC market and the overall economy, it looks like Intel has emerged from the downturn of in excellent shape. The company is well positioned for a recovery with a significant lead in the market for desktop, notebook and low-end server processors.

AMD has a chance to steal market share from Intel if it can demonstrate a market for 64-bit technology on the desktop while producing superior or equal performance to Intel on 32-bit applications, and if its Opteron server processor continues to score design wins within the high-performance computing community and the enterprise.

But when and if Intel decides to enter the 64-bit desktop market, or develop a 64-bit processor for low-end servers, it is doubtful whether AMD can match Intel's manufacturing ability and marketing resources.

Tom Krazit writes for IDG News Service

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