Intel Developer Forum Fall 2006. Day 1

IDF Fall 2006 in San Francisco started this morning, and we are proud to offer you our detailed reports from the keynote presentations and the showfloor expo. Find out the details about the Quad-core processors, 80-core Intel prototypes, new mobile solutions and more!

by Anna Filatova
09/26/2006 | 04:18 PM

Intel: Leap Ahead

Today’s IDF morning started with an opening keynote by Paul Otellini devoted to the latest and greatest news from Intel and partners. We had our expectations, of course, but as usual we got mostly teased with all the cool stuff.


Anyway, I will try to highlight the most interesting things that were revealed this morning.

The situation in the industry and in the entire world is such that now more than ever we need the power to come from new silicon. The society got to the point when performance matters again. What has changed? New computers are different. PC games are approaching movie quality, the modern day requirements have changed. Photo editing, video editing, latest OS’s, like Windows Vista and OS X drive the need for more computing power.

Take for instance high-definition video. According to research it is picking up really rapidly. Take a look:

However, besides consuming more core capability, the devices are also becoming more mobile. The overall tendency in the notebook market remains the same and streams towards longer battery life, smaller size and sleeker form-factor. If you have been following the news from the last couple of IDFs, then you remember that we talked multiple times about increasing performance and driving power consumption down for the notebook segment. Then we introduced Core Duo – the first dual-core for mobiles. Core 2 Duo announced this July was another step forward towards more efficient performance:

The efficiency of Intel solutions for the notebook market (as well as for desktops) didn’t remain unnoticed by such giants of the industry as Apple.

Phil Shiller from Apple proudly announced that they had completed the transition of the entire product line to Intel Pentium microprocessors. Just to refresh your memory: in February Apple announced the first notebook on Intel platform. In March they launched a small form-factor desktop aka Mac Mini with an Intel Core Duo inside. Then they announced an entire new Macbook product line. In August they announced Mac Pro professional workstation that was based on two Xeon dual-core chips that turned out the fastest Mac Apple ever made. He wound up this list with Mac OS X software that should help deliver all the advantages of the new platform to the customers.

The transition to Intel platform was completed less than a month ago. And the major reason for such enthusiasm is the great success and potential of the platform.

Dual-Core - the Best, Quad-Core – the Very Best?

Core 2 Duo offers absolutely stunning performance. According to PC magazine it is a “Jaw Droppingly fast” processor:

Besides, the momentum for this product was quite good. Within 60 days after the official launch Intel shipped over 5 million processors.

Overall, it was a very busy summer for Intel. Core 2 Duo launched over a number of segments delivering the world’s best and most energy-efficient performance. But could they do better? I bet you know the answer already: what is better than two cores? – Four cores!

As of today Intel has accelerated the schedule to Q4’06 from Q1’07. This is what will look like. The quad-core will first be targeted for the enthusiast or gamer segment of the marketplace. The initial desktop version will be called Core 2 Extreme and will ship in November. According to Intel with the 70% performance improvement compared with the predecessor Core 2 Extreme is currently the fastest single socket microprocessor on the planet.

In Q1 Intel will bring it down into the mainstream segment under the name of Core 2 Quad.

As a demonstration of the quad-core system in action we were offered an episode from Remedy game that ran on a falcon system built using Nvidia graphics, Intel quad-core processors running at 3.73GHz and apparently AGEIA physics. More systems with quad-core inside are coming in November and these will be the systems from the following partners:

Approaching 45nm Era

The most fundamental level that makes this whole thing work is the transistor. And on the transistor level Moore’s law keep working perfectly.

Last year Intel introduced 60nm transistor. Today up to 10 million transistors can fit onto a tip of a ballpoint pen. This week Intel will have shipped their 40th million 65nm microprocessor:

This year Intel is planning another major transition: the launch of 45nm.  As a result they are expecting a 30% performance boost and 5-fold reduction in leakage power on the transistor level.

Right now Intel boasts to have the world’s only 45nm production facility that cost 3 billion dollars to build. It is Fab D1D in Oregon:

However total investment is in 45nm production has already hit 9 billion dollars. There are two more fabs that are being built now in Israel and Arizona. These will be up and running for 45nm very soon:


As the production facilities are getting ready to be set in operation, the first 45nm design is also almost complete. Intel will have a total of 15 distinct microprocessor designs for this production technology. However, they intend on maintaining sustained technology leadership far beyond just the fine production process:

They will have 300% increase in performance-per-watt between now and the end of the decade.

80-Core Super Computers to Come in 5 Years

The technology advancements will also result into significant breakthroughs in the server segment, too. ASCI Red supercomputer was the worlds fastest in 1996 it was a teraflop super-machine that took up the entire room. But what can be better than a super computer in a room? A super computer on a desk!

Today we were given a chance to see the first prototype wafer they will be using for production of 80-core processors.

Each CPU like that will have 80 simple floating-point dies and each die is capable of teraflop performance and can transfer terabytes of data per second. They claim that it will be commercially available in a 5-year window and will be ideal for such tasks as real-time speech translation or massive search, for instance.

Another important milestone in the today’s advancement of microprocessor industry is the energy efficient performance. In June Intel started shipping Xeon 5200 dual-core processor. It also had a tremendous momentum. By now they have already shipped 1 million products and have every reason to call it the today’s fastest growing server chip. In November Intel will launch quad-core Xeon:

It will be the first quad-core solution for the high-volume server market segments. In next year they will also release a lower voltage version:

It will deliver over 50% improvement in performance in the same power envelope.

Digital Home

In the Digital Home environment there has also been a tremendous amount of changes. The biggest one is closely connected with the explosion of home page video. It stimulates the arrival of a totally a new class of devices. For example, this solution from Toshiba:

It is a 2nd generation of Toshiba’s HD DVD players that will be available within sub-$500 price range. It will feature Intel architecture inside and will be shipping in October 2006.

Now another member of the Digital Home concept - the Media PC. It has also evolved quite a bit and so did VIIV technology. Since January when Intel launched this technology, they have done two big things: first they launched Core 2 Duo and developed new software that allows easy access to the VIIV system via the lining-room TV with the help of the digital media adapters (DMA). These devices will be available for around $250 from such makers as:

Wouldn’t it be great if the set top box could also act as a DMA? Of course, here is the solution:

Direct TV + HD DVR can take content from the VIIV PC or internet and display it on the same set top box it is connected to. Direct TV expects to sell millions of devices like that next year. They are also developing an add-in tuner card for additional access based content to be viewed on the VIIV PC. It will turn the PC or notebook into an additional receiver.

But all this is meaningless without content. Right now there are over 150 verified services.

Here are some numbers for you. There are over 60 million fantasy football players in the world today involved with Yahoo Sports. AOL features the world’s largest library of online movies. Later this week NBC will launch new service for free download of several shows. Lastly ClickStar, that will have the world’s first online movie release two weeks after the official Hollywood release (it will be “10 items or less” with Morgan Freeman).

So, content is changing dramatically, but the desktop is not evolving hardly as rapidly. So in order to accelerate the creative process Intel today announced the Core 2 challenge in order to find the sleekest and smallest device design for the Digital Home environment:

Mobile News

The largest benefit for the energy efficient performance is in the devices we carry a round. Notebooks are now accelerating. There are more consumer notebooks sold everywhere than consumer desktops.  Centrino was an inflection point in driving notebook growth. Next year Intel will release Santa Rosa – next generation Centrino platform. It will use Core 2 Duo microprocessor, faster wireless, NAND flash memory, new manageability and security features for the enterprise and new generation integrated graphics.

Frequently accessed data will be stored on the NAND flash rather than HDD, so less battery resources will be spent and it will take half as much time for the system to resume from hibernate and load applications.

On the wireless front 802.11n is the next generation wireless standard. It is about 5 times faster than the today’s standard:

The next inflection point for mobility is what Intel calls “broadband to go”. It means we have personal portable broadband internet. To implement this into life we need pervasive wireless broadband and new class of portable computers to carry. The first one is clearly WiMAX:

Mobile WiMAX will first be available as add-in cards later this year and throughout 2007. In 08 it will be integrated into a single module and will be part of Centrino platform.

As for the new class of devices, they will be ultra-small and ultra-portable. And Intel is accelerating their plans here also. Next year they intend to ship one that has one half the power and takes one fourth the surface space than the current solutions. In 2008 Intel will meet their initially set decade goal. And they will most probably move beyond that by the end of the decade. All these devices will offer full web capability and will run full versions of Windows Vista.

This portable solution features the lowest power consuming processor built by Quanta, built-in camera, built-in keyboard, WiFi and WiMAX. It can play videos, perform real-time search and features GPS functions, i.e. boasts full rich power of the PC and full wireless capability. As a demo they showed a VW vehicle with the device like that integrated. Very neat toy, although I liked the Chrysler from back in the days much more :) (for details see Intel Developer Forum Spring 2005: Day 1 Coverage).

Intel World Ahead Program

The real power of the technology is the ability to transform lives.

Intel contributed a lot to this program. It is launched in 30 countries around the world and is aimed at making PCs access affordable to citizens, training teachers, and distributing prototype of the education PC among some schools in Africa and other countries. The prototype is known as Classmate PC and it is going to be out in the first quarter of next year.