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Intel's McKinley Gets Official Name

Talk about stealing thunder.

One day after the team over at chipmaker AMD renamed its 64-bit "Sledgehammer" processor to Opteron, rival Intel Thursday gave its latest chip an official name to remember.

The Santa Clara, Calif.-based chip making giant said its new 64-bit processor, formerly code-named McKinley, will now be addressed by its formal name: Itanium 2.

Sounds more like a summer blockbuster sequel than a semiconductor, but Intel plans to use the chip for high-end servers and workstations.

The processor will be the second in a family of 64-bit products. The company released the Itanium family just last year.

When it makes its debut, the chips are expected to nearly double the performance of the original Itanium and out perform RISC-based systems in enterprise-class applications.

"The Itanium brand connotes a new level of capability for high-end enterprise computing," said Intel Worldwide Marketing vice president and director Pam Pollace. "The Itanium 2 name extends this to the next-generation of the Itanium processor family."

Engineers at the No. 1 chipmaker are hard at work to make its mid-year release deadline. The company said to expect Itanium 2 enhanced servers and workstations to roll out at that time and continue throughout the year.

The Itanium 2 is expected to get the same red-carpet treatment as Intel's flagship Pentium series including a logo that will become part of the Intel Inside co-branding program. No word yet if the Blue Man Group or hoards of bunny-suited workers will be singing the praises of the new chip.

Meantime, the company is spending $2 billion to resume construction on Fab 24 in Leixlip, County Kildare, Ireland. Construction on the manufacturing facility originally started in June 2000 but was halted during last year's worldwide economic downturn.

Fab 24 is expected to produce advanced semiconductor components on 300 mm wafers and initially use 90-nanometer process technology. Operations are expected to begin in the first half of 2004.

The new fab will also incorporate Intel's recently disclosed 90-nanometer process technology. In March, the company announced that Intel researchers had built the world's smallest SRAM memory cell using this new technology.

When the new facility is completed the fab will employ a staff of 1,000. There are currently 3,150 Intel employees in Leixlip. Intel will then have four 300 mm wafer fabrication facilities in operation.