Intel Core i7 drops goodies onto desktops

It's like Christmas morning, but a month and a half early.

Delivered promptly in my email inbox this morning was a Micro Center ad heralding the availability of Intel's new generation of desktop CPUs, the Core i7. Get them starting today, Sunday, and Monday at retail locations (in-store pick-up only). It's like Christmas morning, but a month and a half early. Now, these are standalone retail boxed CPUs, not manufacture built systems from Dell, HP and others, so we're talking CPUs for end-user and boutique shop built computers here. Not something you're likely to find Monday morning sitting on end users' desks anywhere across the enterprise.

So what you say, another Intel processor line hits the market, so what's the big news? From someone in IT's viewpoint, we always want newer, faster, cheaper processors coming our way for lots of reasons. First, we all see benefits via "price at the pump" so to say, because our desktop prices continue to drop and performance goes up. It was less than two years ago when the now mainstream Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600 was introduced (January 07) at a price of $US851 in 1KU quantities. Intel's introducing the 2.66Ghz Core i7 920 (a big jump in many ways up from the Q6600) at $349 retail, with a street price around $299. The Q6600's now dropped to $183 and is still doing yeomen's work in the video and sound editing rig I use for work.

Second, just as Core 2 Duo CPUs are commonplace in desktop computers brought into the enterprise today, the same will be true of quad-cores in the not too distant future. Quad cores may be seen as something used in higher end desktops, technologies will lower to a point where a quad core in your average desktop won't seem at all unusual. It's merely a matter of time, the pace of innovation, and the dynamics of planned obsolescence (the good kind.)

Third, Core i7's give us good insight into the direction Intel thinks desktops, and servers, are headed: three memory channels for DDR3 1066Mhz memory (pushing around lots of media and virtualised apps), Quick Path Interconnect to interconnect CPUs and system components, Turbo Mode for single-threaded apps, and improved power management.

Intel's positioning Core i7 at desktops needing "breakaway performance for digital media creation faster video edit/encode, image rendering, audio production, real-time preview", file and data compression, encryption, multitasking demands, and highly threaded games. In essence, desktops that are virtualising apps, bringing users more multimedia, and taking on bigger loads across multiple applications. The cloud may be hot these days but the speed and power aren't going away at the desktop anytime soon. I also think we'll see more and more touch interfaces and voice processing at the desktop too.

A constant supply of new processor technology from Intel, and AMD, is definitely one form of trickle down economics that works as we see more power at the desktop for a much lower price point. We probably won't be using too many Core i7's in our businesses before Christmas gets here but we're already receiving our gifts through price-performance improvements.

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