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Intel says there's more to like than speed

3GHz and Beyond

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ComputerWire: IT Industry Intelligence

Intel president and COO Paul Otellini conceded speed might not be everything as he delivered the opening keynote address at the vendor's developer forum in San Jose yesterday,

Joe Fay writes

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While Otellini debuted faster versions of the vendor's mainline Pentium 4 processor, he also said that eventually other factors would become as important as GHz computing and communications convergence.

Sticking with traditional Intel fare, Otellini demonstrated a system running the 3GHz Pentium 4, which is due to ship in the fourth quarter of this year. Otellini also took the wraps off a prototype P4 running at 4.1GHz, which demonstrators then clocked up to 4.7GHz.

The 3GHz part will be the first Intel desktop processor to feature hyperthreading technology, which Intel claims makes a single processor look like two chips to multithreaded programs. Intel claims the technology will deliver an extra 25% of performance on desktop systems, compared to around 30% on server systems. All future Pentium 4s at 3GHz or above will feature hyperthreading.

The vendor's mobile processor architecture, Banias, also got an airing ahead of its launch next year. Otellini showed off Banias-based laptops from Gateway and Panasonic. Intel will give further details of the architecture today.

However, Banias, with its emphasis on battery life, form factor and wireless performance, as well as raw power, prompted Otellini to admit that the vendor's historic emphasis on clock speed when marketing its processors may have to change sometime in the future.

"With 3GHz and beyond," Otellini said after the presentation, "we will start to push other things."

And one of those "other things" looks set to be security. Otellini yesterday gave further details of Intel's embedded hardware security technology. The company first hinted that it was working on a hardware security system back in April.

Yesterday, Otellini revealed that the technology was code-named LaGrande. He said that the technology would be integrated into Intel's future processors, and would offer protected execution, memory and storage. Intel would be working with other security efforts, said Otellini, including Microsoft's Palladium initiatives.

However, the industry will have to wait some time before it can take advantage of LaGrande. Otellini described it as: "an architecture that will be embedded in the next microarchitecture from Intel," adding, "we don't have another generation of microarchitecture this year. We're talking about something that's 2003 or beyond."

That apparently precludes Prescott, the next generation P4 due next year. But whatever generation LaGrande appears in, it should have plenty of transistors to take advantage of. Otellini said Intel already has a one billion transistor chip in development. "When that moves beyond servers, things become very interesting," said Otellini.

While Otellini's keynote contained the usual focus on hardware, he also made a strong pitch to software developers. He called on developers to tailor their applications to take advantage of the "free" extra performance Hyperthreading will deliver.

He also cited their crucial role as computing and connectivity converged, and users increasingly demanded applications that could scale from servers to desktops to handhelds - all platforms which Intel develops processors for. He said they needed to create "device aware" and "mobile aware" applications. As part of Intel's pitch to the developer community, Otellini said that next year it would be delivering integrated development SDKs "to allow for seamless, cross platform development".

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