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RealTime IT News

Intel Readies Prescott for a Street Fight

Intel is putting the finishing touches on its next-generation Pentium processor in an attempt to fend off advances by rival AMD .

The Santa Clara, Calif.-based chip-making giant could not confirm the exact release date of its desktop chip (code-named Prescott) but did say it already is getting revenue for shipments (read: orders from vendors). Sources close to the company told internetnews.com the chip is currently in fabrication production and, while specific branding on the processor has not been decided, it is likely that Prescott will maintain the Pentium 4 moniker.

Company spokesperson George Alfs said Prescott will replace the current P4 "Northwood" chip as its high-volume desktop model and include some great surprises.

"Prescott marks our move to 90 nanometers on the desktop and doubles the amount of L1 and L2 cache currently found in Northwood," Alfs told internetnews.com.

When it does debut, three Prescott chips are expected, running at speeds of 3.06GHz, 3.2GHz, and 2.8GHz -- some with "Extreme Edition" properties. The Prescott will also be compatible with Intel-based 848, 865, and 875 chipset boards. They'll support HyperThreading and contain 13 new sets of Instructions, including streaming Single Instruction Multiple Data (SIMD), which is designed to improve 3D and multimedia.

Intel is in a unique position, however, because Prescott is a 32-bit chip by nature and will go head-to-head with the new 64-bit Athlon family produced by AMD. Since its introduction in September 2003, the new Athlon 64 has sparked speculation that Intel would need its own version to counter AMD's advances. So far, Intel has not shown its hand.

"We have not talked about 64-bit extensions in any of our desktop processors," Alfs said. "Rumors have been going on about that for years now, but we have not confirmed it. Certainly we think about a lot of things and, as far as adding 64-bit to our desktops, we would have to seriously consider it and would wait for the right time."

According to Intel's Web site, there are some limited 64-bit instruction capabilities but so far, Intel's 64-bit focus has been on its EPIC-based Itanium . The processor is designed for data processing and High-performance computing. Intel has maintained that there is no mainstream 64-bit application available that is pushing a 64-bit desktop agenda.

"There's a lot of work ahead before that happens," Alfs said. "I'd rather not speculate on how a transition would take place."

But Intel can't hold out for too much longer. Vendors listed on DealTime.com are already advertising the next desktop Athlon (Series 3400+), slated for release on January 6th.

Intel is expected to update its developer community during its Spring conference in February.