Intel plans to ship its first Xeon processors based on a new dual-core architecture in 2006, company officials said Tuesday, a disclosure that surprised industry observers who had expected the chips to appear in 2005.
Last month, Intel President and Chief Operating Officer Paul Otellini seemed to indicate that the company planned to release its first dual-core Xeon next year. "In 2005, Intel will ship dual-core products into every one of our key segments of the marketplace: desktop, servers and mobile products in production next year," he said speaking at the Intel Developer Forum in San Francisco.
However, Otellini's remarks did not refer to the company's Xeon plans, said Mike Houlihan, an Intel spokesman in a Tuesday interview. "There's definitely no schedule change," he said "We just hadn't disclosed a schedule previously."
Intel has been "fairly vague" about the dual-core Xeon product's delivery date, partly in response to a July memo from Intel Chief Executive Officer Craig Barrett, calling on the company to change its methods and improve the way it brings products to market, said Dean McCarron, principal analyst with Mercury Research. Product delays throughout the year have plagued Intel.
Another chip analyst said he had expected the dual-core Xeon in 2005. "I'm kind of surprised," said Kevin Krewell, editor in chief of Microprocessor Report in San Jose, California. "What pushing (the ship date to) 2006 indicates to me is that Intel has decided to wait until 2006 to build a chip with 65 nanometer, with more cache on board," he said, referring to the 65-nm technology Intel is now developing to build its next-generation microprocessors.
While vendors like IBM and Sun Microsystems have already begun shipping dual-core processors for their Unix systems, Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) and Intel have been locked in a race to be the first x86 vendors to bring this type of design, which places two computational units, called cores, on the microprocessor.
AMD began demonstrating early implementations of its dual-core Opteron at the end of August, and IBM already started shipping its first server designed to support the AMD processors when those ship in the middle of next year.
Intel, for its part, demonstrated a prototype of the dual-core Pentium chip at the September Intel Developer Forum, and the company is planning to release dual-core Itanium and Pentium processors in 2005.
Both companies will begin shipping dual-core processors, "in fairly limited volume," in the middle of 2005, with numbers ramping up in the next year, McCarron said.
However, with other vendors also building chips for the x86 instruction set, it is possible that neither Intel nor AMD will be the first to market with a dual-core x86 processor, McCarron said. "I wouldn't be shocked," he said about the prospect of a company other than AMD or Intel being first.