Intel chief executive Paul Otellini used the opening keynote of the Intel Developer Forum in San Francisco last week to give the first public demonstration of the vendor’s next-generation low-power micro-architecture.
Otellini claimed the technology will “dramatically cut” power consumption for both server, desktop and laptop processors. Over time, he said, the technology should allow for an ultra-low-power portable computer that offers all day-battery life.
The latest micro-architecture merges the existing Netburst and Banias micro-architectures. Netburst, which focuses on high-performance computing, is used in today’s server and desktop chips, and Banias emphasises low power consumption for use in the Pentium M mobile chip.
Otellini told delegates: “We are combining the best of these two architectures to create the next-generation power-optimised architecture.”
Chips based on the new technology are due out in the second half of next year. The models are codenamed Merom for mobile devices, Conroe for desktops and Whitefield for servers. They will offer dual cores and support 64-bit instructions. However, they will lack support for hyperthreading, at least initially, the company said in a briefing.
A micro-architecture sits one layer below the chip architecture such as the IA-32 that is used in today’s Pentium and Xeon chips. It allows software to interact with the chip.
Delivering lower power consumption can not only increase battery life, but also reduces heat production, which currently prevents computer builders from creating small, fanless computers. Heat production in servers also requires enterprises to invest in cooling systems for their server rooms.
Intel won’t name the new micro-architecture, said Otellini, because the chipmaker doesn’t want to invest in marketing the technology. “You will see us investing in branding around the products,” he said.
In the short term, the focus on low-power processors should enable the new form factor of the ‘handtop’ computer, a device slightly larger than a PDA offering all-day battery life and integrated wireless connectivity. The chips for these devices will use only 5W of power. Today’s laptops use 5.5W to 22W. Otellini said the first handtop computers could be introduced by the first half of 2006.
Bill Gates unveiled the prototype of the handtop computer in spring 2004 at WinHEC in Seattle.
Intel is also working on a new generation of processors that will cut power consumption down to 0.5W by the end of 2010, while advances in chip design promise to deliver a ten-fold increase in performance, according to the Intel chief. With their increased computing power, these chips will offer applications for not only mobile devices, but also enterprise servers.
Nathan Brookwood, an analyst at Insight 64, said: “The desktop and server was still megahertz driven. Intel was lucky that it had the [Banias] technology in place. Now it can improve performance per watt,” he said.
Moving to a single architecture allows Intel to make better use of its development budget, he added.
However, AMD was scathing about Intel’s move. Bahr Mahony, division marketing manager for AMD’s mobile processors, said it is a way for the chip vendor to start using Banias across its processor line and “pretend” to do something new.
“[The new micro-architecture] is taking the Pentium 3 architecture and using that in the desktop space. By calling it next-generation, it is trying to put the best coat of paint on it that it can,” he said.
'Smaller firms may struggle to keep up with Microsoft's innovation with Dynamics' says CEO Stuart Fenton after acquiring assets from Profile Enterprise Solutions
Pete Peterson admits the firm hasn't always been the 'easiest company to do business with'
New chief exec Aaron Painter says 'longer-term strategy' could see firm tackle the Asian market
XMA bosses on becoming a 'performance VAR', pocketing £50m of Misco leftovers, and acquisition near-misses
Lee Hemani and Andy Wright reveal that XMA is aiming to boost net profits to three per cent of revenues as they run through the growth ambitions of the UK's ninth-largest reseller