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Intel's talk starts to match rivals' products

The five-year push to marketing parity

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Analysis You have to hand it to Intel for talking about power management and the benefits of multi-core processing with such confidence. Using reality distortion, Intel has convinced itself that it pioneered such technology instead of being the lone laggard to catch up with the rest of the industry.

At the Intel Developer Forum, various executives spun the yarn about Intel taking power consumption issues seriously years ago. In addition, the company long had an ambitious multi-core processor plan in place, we were told. Now Intel will combine the fruits of all this work to crush the competition on a performance per watt basis.

(The claims about such a masterful plan are comical when Intel admits that surprise development work in Israel has led to its entire future line of chips.)

Intel's attempt to put a stranglehold on the performance per watt dialogue currently dominating the chip industry will amuse many.

Not too long, Intel chip executives mocked Sun Microsystems and others when they talked about multi-core products. Intel pitched the move to multi-core as a sign that rivals had given up on their weak, single core designs. During this same period, Intel would often brag that the heat density of its chips would soon equal that of a rocket nozzle and then one day rival the surface of the sun. Grrr.

Overheating? No more

To put matters in context, IBM released a dual-core server chip – the Power4 – in 2001. Intel has yet to release a comparable dual-core, high-end processor. It won't do so until Montecito version of Itanium arrives most likely in September. So, Intel is five years behind the market leader.

Then, you can look at Sun, which began talking up multi-core chips in late 2002. Sun insisted that a disconnect between memory (slow) and processor (fast) speeds had given rise to a need for new chip designs. Sun also began to jump on the "green computing" bandwagon, saying that lower-power processors would help save energy, although it pushed this idea less than the memory disconnect thing back in 2002 and 2003. At this week's IDF, Intel more or less recycled Sun's old slides.

On the x86 front, matters don't improve. AMD, for example, released a dual-core version of Opteorn in April of 2005 that remains the performance per watt and price performance champ to this day for x86 server chips.

Just a couple of months before that launch, Intel did not spend its time talking up a rival dual-core server chip. No sir. Instead, Intel presented the earth-shattering news that it would no longer pursue GHz above all else.

To this day, Intel still does not sell a dual-core server chip with the two processing cores united together on a single piece of silicon like AMD did at launch with the dual-core Opteron. Intel uses crafty packaging to place two single-core chips near each other on the die.

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