Intel launches first quad-core chips

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Intel launches its first quad-core chips on Tuesday – the product of a reorganisation at the world’s biggest chip company that is creating a dramatic acceleration in the performance of its products.

Over the past year, the company has moved from traditional processors with a single brain to those with two, and now four, in a move that has seen it overtake its rival Advanced Micro Devices and recapture its technology lead.

“In one year, we’ve achieved a four-fold increase in performance. That is stunning,” Pat Gelsinger, head of Intel’s Digital Enterprise group, told the Financial Times.

“We went through a period of not executing well, but we retooled and rebuilt the entire manufacturing and product model and now we are starting to deliver.”

Mr Gelsinger said Intel had switched from a system of teams working in parallel on server, desktop and laptop computers to “leapfrog” teams that had converged and were delivering products for all segments of its business at the same time.

This was demonstrated by its Core 2 Duo launch in the summer, with server, desktop and mobile dual-core processors delivered over a three-month period, based on Intel’s first new chip architecture in five years.

In future, Intel plans to introduce a new architecture every two years based on the new method. In the interim, it will be moving the existing architectures to chips with ever smaller circuit widths.

It has already moved from 90-nanometre to 65-nanometre widths and plans to progress to 45nm next year, introducing more efficiencies and cost savings.

Advanced Micro Devices plans to produce quad-core chips from the middle of next year on 65nm. It says Intel’s chips are not true quad-core in that its rival has combined two dual-core chips.

“With our pace of execution, we have now leapfrogged ahead of the competition and this is the heart beat we have laid out for the industry for the rest of the decade,” said Mr Gelsinger.

The first quad-core chips – the Xeon 5300 and Core 2 Extreme – are designed for servers and high-end gaming machines and work stations. Quad-core chips for general consumer desktop PCs are expected to follow next year.

AMD has been most successful in grabbing market share from Intel in the server segment, but the new Xeon processors offer 50 per cent faster performance than dual-core ones launched by Intel less than five months ago. The chips will cost between $455 and $1,172.

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