Bullish Barrett sets tone

Although its official theme was “advancing the digital universe”, the recurring theme at the Spring 2002 Intel Developer Forum (IDF) was one of global awareness within the tech industry.

During his keynote address at the San Francisco conference to more than 4,000 attendees, Intel CEO Craig Barrett emphasized the need for the industrial world to use emerging technologies to create “knowledge-based economies.”

Despite the IT industry having one of the worst years in recent memory, continued investment in technology and R&D are the keys to growth, Barrett said, adding that the build-out of the Internet is crucial to industry success.

“The only way out of a recession is to bring out new products and new technology,” he said. “What our industry has in front of it is a worldwide build-out of the Internet – the convergence of communication and computing, and the fact that the best is still ahead of us.”

Barrett said the emergence of the Internet and Web services will have a strong impact on the industry: “We have 400 million users attached to the Internet today – we should have one billion in a couple of years…the Internet is the basis for communication, for information access, for commerce, and for entertainment moving forward.”

Barrett and other Intel executives also used the address to officially roll out several new products, including three new single-chip gigabit Ethernet products for workstations and servers, its new Xeon processor and chip-set for lower-end servers, and products based on Intel’s InfiniBand fabric connectivity.

Citing Moore’s Law – the extrapolation observation originated by Intel co-founder Gordon Moore that predicted chip processing power will double approximately every 18 months – Barrett said that Intel is now shipping microprocessors built in its 300 mm wafer production Oregon facility using 0.13-micron process technology. These allow Intel to build processors about four times faster than previous generations, he said. Future chips by Intel will feature over two billion transistors that will run at up to 30GHz, he added.

Anand Chandrasekher, Intel Mobile Platforms Group vice-president said Intel is currently working with other hardware companies through its Mobile Enabling Program to facilitate the development of notebook PCs.

“The idea behind this program is for us to come together to identify key hurdles that we can work on together and remove,” Chandrasekher said.

He said the future of mobile devices include a “thinner, lighter” form factor, better battery life and performance, and secure, seamless wireless connectivity, and added that the initiative will attempt to create new guidelines for forthcoming mobile devices via a standard for secure wireless networking infrastructure.

2002 is also the year Pentium 4 goes mobile, Chandrasekher said, and demonstrated a seamless decode of high-quality streaming video on a notebook PC.

He said the code name for Intel’s next generation mobile devices is Banias, which centres around an updated chipset called Odem and should be available in the first half of 2003. “Banias is the first processor that we are building ground up for this mobile marketplace,” Chandrasekher said.

In his closing speech, Intel Corp. vice-president and chief technology officer Patrick Gelsinger echoed Barrett’s thoughts about expanding Moore’s Law, and quoted a line from Richard Matheson’s novel and motion picture The Incredible Shrinking Man to illustrate.

“The final line in that movie is ‘to God there is no zero.’ And to us as an industry, we have to take the view, the perspective, (with) Moore’s Law, there is no end. We’re going to keep driving it forward and we as a company and as an industry need to keep driving that core technology forward to accomplish that,” Gelsinger said.

Intel’s plans are to join optical with silicon technologies, Gelsinger said, adding this would boost the performance of fibre-optic networks.

Gelsinger specifically focused on the future of silicon radio, silicon photonics, and ad-hoc sensor networks. “Radio Free Intel” is an initiative to shrink down radio components into all future PCs, he said.

“The first one we’re working on is called MEMS (micro-electrical machines)…When you look at the radio today, you’ve got all these passive components, a few silicon components, radio component, baseband processor, memory component – so we want to drive all of those together into a single radio component,” Gelsinger said.

“Imagine the cell phone of the future is no bigger than an earring…with a wireless network, a MEMS microphone device will be no larger than the size of a button on your shirt. You’ll be able to have a microphone rather than this big thing hanging on my belt. We’ll actually deliver a wireless world where you no longer need wires to connect these together. We want to bridge from the RF world to the electronics world and bring those together with the power of Moore’s Law,” he added.

“Moore’s Law is moving beyond just transistors to become entirely new functionality of devices that includes transistors with entirely new types of devices.”