Intel promotes dual-core and much more

Intel Corp. has pronounced 2006 as the year of dual-core.

At the Intel Developer Forum (IDF) in San Francisco, the chip maker announced it would offer three new dual-core products – for servers, desktops and notebooks – in the latter half of next year.

A dual-core chip is a single chip with two distinct CPUs that process simultaneously. Everyday tasks can take advantage of this technology.

For instance, dual-core enables routine tasks – such as e-mail checks and software updates – to run in the background without slowing down primary tasks and applications.

Each of Intel’s new dual-core microprocessors: Woodcrest (servers), Conroe (desktops) and Merom (laptops) are expected to increase performance up to five times while reducing power.

“We need to think about delivering performance against a new metric,” said Paul Otellini, Intel president and CEO, in his opening keynote. And that new metric, he said, is performance per watt. Multi-core processors deliver performance without the power penalties that characterize the GHz approach, Otellini said.

Boosting performance while reducing power was a common theme at the IDF. By the end of this decade, Otellini hopes to take the power envelope down on its products from five watts to half a watt.

As well, Otellini said from now until the end of 2006, Intel will ship more than 60 million dual-core processors. And that’s not the half of it. Intel won’t stop at dual-core but has projects for quad-core and even double digit cores, the CEO said.

Multi-core technology, he said, will lead to a “significant increase in performance and efficiency and significant decrease in energy consumption and energy bills for users.”

Another highlight of the conference was Intel’s unveiling of Napa, the latest iteration of its Centrino notebook technology.

Napa differs from Intel’s Sonoma notebook, which was released earlier this year, according to Sean Maloney, Intel executive vice-president and general manager of the Intel Mobility Group.

He said Napa offers better power management, radio performance and graphics.

Napa not only dramatically decreases power consumption, it also reduces the size of the notebook by 20 per cent, Maloney said.

Eddie Chan, research analyst, mobile/personal computing and technologies at IDC Canada in Toronto predicted that moving dual-core technology on to mobile devices would be the next big development. It’s a natural evolution, he said.

Also announced during the Intel’s mobility keynote was the extension of Intel’s partnership with Cisco Systems. Dubbed Cisco Intel Wireless and Mobility Alliance, this initiative addresses enterprise concerns around performance, security and manageability.

Maloney said over the next 15 months, Intel and Cisco would be delivering enhanced voice over IP (VoIP) technology over Wi-Fi. “At times, it’s a lucky call how much bandwidth you get with voice. You really need quality of service and guaranteed bandwidth so you really can get consistency [with] VoiP service,” he said.

Another feature to be delivered over the same time period is optimal access point selection, where users associate an access point with the most available bandwidth rather than signal strength.

Chan believes this is a smart move. “Prioritizing bandwidth over proximity with access points makes logical sense. You don’t want to degrade the voice experience,” the analyst said.

Those two features are part of the Cisco and Intel Business Class Wireless suite, to be released in the first quarter of 2006.

In addition to their wireless partnership, Cisco and Intel also teamed up on a security offering dubbed Cisco Trusted Advisor, which combines Cisco’s Network Admission Control (NAC) program and Intel’s Active Management Technology (AMT) to defend against security threats.

Cisco Trusted Advisor, which quarantines users until they are authenticated into a corporate network, is expected to be available by the end of this year.

Intel also announced a joint initiative with UPS and SBC to install 5,000 hotspots across the U.S. catering to around 200 planned digital communities.

In addition to the new dual-core technology and the Napa notebook, the chipmaker also showcased its Wi-Max technology.

The technology, Intel noted, is making significant headway with more than a hundred Wi-Max trials around the world. Two-thirds of those trials are being held in emerging markets such as China and India.

Chan said wireless is experiencing its fastest growth in developing countries, and introducing Wi-Max in those areas is less costly as they don’t have legacy pipes and copper. He said Korea’s national telecom company announced the commercial deployment of early mobile Wi-Max. The product, called Wi-Bro, is expected to launch next April.

Maloney said for Wi-Fi and Wi-Max to grow in all markets, open standards and wireless broadband ubiquity are key prerequisites.

While Intel predicts Wi-Max will hit the market as early as 2006, Chan believes Canada won’t see in the technology in notebooks until 2007, and in mobile devices until around 2009.

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