Intel Corp. has begun volume shipments of the Pentium Extreme Edition 840 processor, the company’s first dual-core processor, according to the firm. The chips are being shipped to hardware makers ahead of an official launch, which is expected to take place soon.

“The launch will be in the immediate future,” said Abhi Talwalkar, vice-president and general manager of Intel’s Digital Enterprise Group, speaking with reporters at the Intel Developer Forum (IDF) in Taipei.

Intel and Advanced Micro Devices Inc. (AMD) are both close to launching dual-core processors based on the x86 instruction set. AMD is likely to be first; at press time, it was planning to launch its first dual-core Opteron processors on April 21, the two-year anniversary of the introduction of Opteron, AMD’s first 64-bit chip.

Talwalkar declined to comment on when exactly Intel plans to officially launch the Pentium Extreme Edition 840.

But in a presentation at IDF, he showed off a Dimension XPS computer from Dell Inc. based on the chip and said the system would be available sometime this month. The Pentium Extreme Edition 840 has two processor cores, each running at 3.2GHz.

In another announcement coming out of IDF, Dell also confirmed it will use the dual-core Extreme Edition processor in the fifth generation of its Dimension XPS desktop, which is designed for gamers and PC enthusiasts. That PC will be available “soon” in the U.S. and Canada for US$2,999, Dell said in a release. It was not available for order on Dell’s Web site at press time.

Hewlett-Packard Co. (HP) and Gateway Inc. said they were unable to comment on their specific plans for Intel’s Pentium Extreme Edition 840 chip or the timing of their product launches.

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