IDF - Intel chips to shrink to 32-nanometer process

Intel CEO Paul Otellini demonstrated a chip manufactured using the 32-nanometer process at IDF

Intel will ramp up performance and energy efficiency in its microprocessors by using a 32-nanometer process technology, starting in 2009.

During a keynote at the Intel Developer Forum this week in San Francisco, Intel President and CEO Paul Otellini showed a 300mm wafer built using the 32-nm manufacturing technology. The chip will house more than 1.9 billion transistors and its increased performance will enable "true to life entertainment and real-life graphics capabilities," Otellini said in his keynote.

The chips will be an upgrade over processors built using the 45-nm process Intel is incorporating in its Penryn processor, due in November, and Silverthorne and Nehalem processors, slated to appear early and in the second half of 2008 respectively.

Intel currently uses a 65-nm process to manufacture chips, and Penryn is the code name given to the 45-nanometer "shrink" of Intel's current chip designs. The measurements refer to the size of the features on the silicon chip.

In the first public demonstration of the Nehalem processor, Otellini said it will deliver better performance-per-watt and better system performance through its QuickPath Interconnect system architecture, which will include an integrated memory controller and improved communication links between system components.

Otellini also announced a Penryn dual-core processor operating at 25 watts that will be available on the upcoming Montevina platform, which will also include WiMax technology. To meet multiple computing needs, Otellini said Intel also plans to introduce 15 new 45nm processors by the end of the year and 20 in the first quarter of 2008.

Intel isn't the first to announce 32-nm chip technology. In May, a group of chip makers led by IBM agreed to further collaborate to jointly develop 32-nm semiconductor production technology. Other companies in the collaboration include Freescale Semiconductor, Chartered Semiconductor Manufacturing, Infineon Technologies and Samsung Electronics.

There was nothing surprising in Otellini's keynote, said Doug Freedman, an analyst at American Technology Research.

Intel's roadmap tends to be conservative, and the company is well on track to meeting its time line, he said. With the new chips, users will continue to get more processing performance at a similar price point, he said.

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