Craig Barrett’s last stand

SAN FRANCISCO – Intel chief executive Craig Barrett gave his last keynote speech to a group of 5,000 attendees from 40 countries at the firm’s Developer Forum on Tuesday, pushing what the company calls a “holistic platform approach”

to processor development.

Barrett will step down in May for incoming CEO Paul Otellini, who is attending the conference but will not speak. Barrett said that Intel is moving beyond its PC-centric focus to a broader technology focus across different platforms, which will deal with the convergence of computing and communications with rich digital content.

Barrett said multi-core processing, which splits computing tasks on a processor, will be central to the firm’s approach. The shift is expected to enhance performance (particularly for virtualized environments), reduce power consumption and allow for simultaneous processing of multiple tasks. Intel expects to produce chips with four or more cores with up to eight threads by the end of the decade.

Intel currently has more than 10 multi-core projects in the works.

“Dual-core and multi-core is really the way we continue to use Moore’s Law effectively,” he said, referring to the continual push of doubling processor speed every 18 to 24 months.

Wi-Max is going to be a disruptive technology, said Barrett, that will change the way we think about mobile technology. “It will get us out of this half-assed broadband access we have today.”

He said the Centrino chip has done well for wireless access on notebooks, but the company has more work to do in the cellular/handheld space.

It may find competition in this area from IBM, Toshiba and Sony, which have been working on a “supercomputer on a chip,” called the Cell microprocessor, designed for portable electronics, home entertainment devices and powerful computers.

The race has been on between Intel and AMD to bring out the first dual-core products, and industry pundits have argued about which microprocessor giant is further ahead on the development curve. AMD’s dual-core processor technology for desktops, called Toledo, is expected to start appearing in PCs in the second half of 2005.

Steve Pawlowski, senior fellow and director of platform planning, architecture and technology with Intel Corp., said 85 per cent of the company’s processors will be multi-core by the end of 2006. This is based on demand for more processing power but lower power consumption, he said.

Stephen Smith, vice-president of the Digital Enterprise Group, said two dual-core desktops will be coming out in the second quarter of this year: the Intel Pentium Processor Extreme Edition with 955X Express Chipset and Intel Pentium D Processor (Smithfield) with 945 Express Chipset.

The Itanium 2 Processor called Montecito will be released this year; in 2006, it will evolve into Montvale and, in the fiuture, Tukwila.

But the company is keeping its bases covered: Smith said dual-core and single-core chips will continue to co-exist for some time.

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Vawn Himmelsbach
Vawn Himmelsbach
Is a Toronto-based journalist and regular contributor to IT World Canada's publications.

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