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Intel's Dual Core Farther on Roadmap

As Intel's new CEO Paul Otellini takes the reins of the world's largest chipmaker, the company is moving forward with its "platformization" strategy of building the next generation of embedded systems while updating customers on product roadmaps.

This includes a longer timeframe before dual-core chips will make it into Intel's product lines for business PCs, Intel said. Dual-core and virtualization technologies, such as Intel's Vanderpool family of products, are slated for release next year.

Paul Otellini
Paul Otellini
Source: Intel

For now, the focus is on how Intel can evolve its business client platform, tend its current generation of PC desktop processors, and move to a platform approach that can meet the proliferation of different clients in the computing ecosystem.

Gregory Bryant, general manager of Intel's digital office platform division, calls the upgrade a pretty sizeable shift.

"Not just for components, but with an entire platform that adds new value beyond gigahertz," he said.

By month's end, Intel will be rolling its new Professional Business Platform made up of Intel's new 945G Express chipset, Pro/1000 PM desktop adapter and Series 600 Pentium 4 processor with hyper-threading technology.

Building on its success with embedded systems, Intel is also about to roll its Active Management Technology, which is another name for embedded agents that help system administrators monitor and fix PCs locally and remotely.

In addition, Intel said its Stable Image Platform Program gives customers a 12-month software map to help them plan and manage their PC fleets. That's code for controlling total cost of ownership costs: The Stable Image Platform Program typically ensures customers that the software and system image they load on PCs won't be broken or changed in the product lineup for 12 months.

"This is helping people minimize the number of configurations," Bryant added. "It helps make transitions predictable, which helps lower costs."

This means no new surprises, such as dual-core processors or its Vanderpool virtualization systems, until 2006 after the launch of the current platform snapshot.

Customers can expect more news about the various additions to Intel's *T family: Intel Hyper Threading Technology (HT); LaGrande Technology (Security, LT); Vanderpool and Silvervale Technology (Virtualization, VT/ST) Intel Centrino Mobile Technology (CMT); and Extended Memory 64 Technology (EM64T).

Just don't expect the company to spring any surprises on customers about the product pipelines before they're ready to upgrade or test drive the latest additions to Intel's 90-nm and future processor families.

Intel is clearly shifting to where the puck is going, which is in smaller, less CPU-intensive clients, and building on its success with embedded systems, namely its Centrino family of wireless connectivity chipsets.

"Now it's going to extend that over time to wireless LANs and WiMax ," Bryant said. "The more notebooks and handhelds work like one device, the more they share connectivity and synchronize data more seamlessly."

The trend helps explain Intel's investment in its Active Management Technology offering, an embedded controller with diagnostic capabilities built into the silicon to ensure that the controller is talking over the network and helping server-management personnel remotely manage the fleet of PCs and computing devices.

Bryant said embedded systems won't solve all the problems of managing the proliferation of different clients accessing networks, but hardware systems can help ease some of the management headaches.

"We're looking at drivers, trends, pain points that are key, such as security, and still-tight IT budgets. At the same time, there's an explosion in the amount of data in the enterprise."

The upgrade represents a major shift for Intel, as it faces the possibility of investing in newer but lower-margin devices that are not as profitable as its older lines, while working with partners in order to seed the computing ecosystem with product support for the newer clients. To that end, Intel has invested in systems for Flash, handhelds and notebooks, ranging from sub-notebooks to desktop replacements.

"It's a ton of work," Bryant said, and partners are grasping the magnitude of the changes afoot.

Gordon Haff, senior analyst with tech research firm Illuminata, said Intel's integrated platform is replicating the success Intel has enjoyed with its Centrino chipset family. "Intel is big on replicating things that work," he said.

Intel's bundling plans involve systems that work together, but also minimize power use. "Intel will certainly continue to sell their bread-and-butter desktop processors," Haff said. The proof in its shift to new embedded systems for smaller clients will come five years from now, Haff added, "when we'll be able to look at the PC and say 'rumors of its demise were greatly exaggerated.' But I still think, in general, if you look in the average home and where the computing power is, it is going to shift."

Is an xBox Intel-based? Are set-top boxes Intel-based? Tivo? More and more, new computers will be considered as those devices. The lower-power devices may have lower margins than the latest greatest PC, Haff added, but Intel is not out of the running in any of these emerging computing areas.