Intel has confirmed that in future all its chips will be multicore, while taking the wraps off its future desktop, server and mobile processor plans.
VP for Intel's Desktop Platforms Group, Stephen Smith, said that the desktop-oriented "Smithfield", whose existence he publicly confirmed for the first time, is to be a 90 nanometre process, dual-core processor. Smith would neither confirm nor deny on whether it would still be called a Pentium 4 - which hints that it may not be, especially since the slides he provided showed the next generation products as a separate model line from the Pentium 4. It is due out in 2005.
By 2006, Intel expects to have moved Smithfield's production to a 65 nm process and be in the throes of designing multicore desktop chips. However, it's not clear whether the dual-core chip will be a new design or simply a pair of existing P4 chips in one package.
Server chips are already moving towards dual-core and, said Smith, by the end of 2006, Intel expects that a full 85 percent of server processor shipments will consist of dual-core products, while desktop and mobile chips will only have reached 70 percent. Considering only 65 percent of its shipments this year consist of its hyper-threaded technology (HT), theses are aggressive plans.
Smith however took pains to highlight Intel's considerable global R&D and production facilities, saying that these would be brought to bear on the problem. According to Smith, the upshot will be performance improvements -- at a purely processor level of course -- of up to 10-fold over the next four years. He said that, had Intel stuck with HT and boosted the speed of the chips, performance improvements would only be three-fold.
"With dual-core we can assign increased hardware support for each thread and get stronger benefit for threaded execution compared to hyper-threading," he said. "With HT the hardware could just cope - going multicore means going onto further cores over time -- four or more."
Smith also said that Smithfield would fit into the same "thermal envelope" as today's Prescott chips. Decoding Intel-speak, this means they won't use much more power and therefore generate much more heat.