Intel settles on new desktop strategy

Intel's products for the digital home and office in 2005 will give personal customers and IT managers more capabilities than just...

Intel's products for the digital home and office in 2005 will give personal customers and IT managers more capabilities than just raw performance and package its products in platforms as it did with Centrino mobile technology, Intel executives said yesterday.

Intel president and chief operating officer Paul Otellini said Intel had learned a great deal during a tumultuous year, having torn up its roadmap for desktop and server processors after realising that high-frequency single-core products would be too difficult to make in volume.

Earlier this year, Intel cancelled two single-core desktop and server designs and announced plans to accelerate the development of dual-core processors.

According to Otellini, the company listens to chief information officers and other customers about what they want to see in Intel products, and its future products should reflect those wishes. He said that customers now wanted not just performance but manageability features and lower power consumption too.

As a result, Intel is planning to design and market its desktop processors in platforms, akin to the way it brought the Pentium M chip, 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," he said.

Lyndon is the codename for Intel's first Centrino-like desktop platform. It will target both the digital home and digital office in 2005 and come with Pentium 4 processors with 2Mbytes of cache and 64-bit extensions to the x86 instruction set.

Intel spokesman Bill Kircos said the company would be aggressive in making its desktop processors 64-bit capable in the first half of 2005. Intel previously said it would turn on the 64-bit extensions within the Prescott processor when operating system support became available - Microsoft's 64-bit Windows XP is scheduled to ship in the first quarter of next year.

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

Intel plans to bring out the Bridge Creek and Averill platforms for the digital home and digital office In 2006. These platforms will incorporate the security and virtualisation technologies that Intel highlighted at recent developer conferences. According to Otellini, Microsoft's next update to Windows, codenamed Longhorn, will be required to take advantage of the hardware-based security and virtualisation technologies that Intel plans for 2006.

Despite its focus on platform technologies, Intel does in fact still make microprocessors. Otellini said the single-core Pentium 4 chips with 2Mbytes of cache memory would be followed by the dual-core Smithfield processor in late 2005. Smithfield has two Prescott processor cores, or the 90-nanometer version of Intel's Pentium 4. Smithfield will be followed in 2006 by the 65nm Cedar Mill design.

Otellini did not provide specific codenames for Intel's plans on the server side, but Xeon server processors are generally based on the same 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 Intel would bring its security and virtualisation technologies to Xeon processors in 2006.

Intel's strategy for its mobile 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 memory and the PCI Express interconnect technology, which both appeared on the desktop earlier this year.

Yonah is the codename for Intel's first dual-core mobile processor. It will build on the company's 65nm process technology and be paired with the Calistoga chipset on the Napa platform.

Tom Krazit writes for IDG News Service

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