The Pentium is dead: long live the Pentium. Intel's chief executive, Paul Ottelini, unveiled the company's new road map for processors at the Intel Developer Forum at the Moscone Conference Center, San Francisco, last week, and, as expected, the venerable Pentium family is getting a revamp for a high-speed, low-power future.
It's a future that depends on a new micro-architecture -- one that will support everything from laptops to servers -- along with a new class of devices that Intel is calling "handtops."
Ottelini's theme was delivering more power while using less power. Portable PCs need to use less power to provide the eight-hour battery life Intel is promising for 2008. Servers need to use low power chips to cram more processing power into ever smaller cases without them over-heating, or costing more to run than to buy. And with energy prices climbing, it also makes sense to save electricity.
Intel is promising notebook PCs that, next year, will use no more than 5W, desktops at 65W and servers at 80W. By the end of the decade, it's hoping for portable PCs that consume just half a watt.
These "handtops" will weigh less than a pound and have 5in screens and an all-day battery life, much like the Haiku prototype Microsoft unveiled at the WinHEC Windows Hardware Engineering conference in May.
Although not much bigger than PDAs, handtops will be full PCs running Windows XP -- rather like the pricey OQO.
Intel isn't starting from scratch with the new micro-architecture: it is bringing together features from its existing Pentium 4 NetBurst and Banias (Centrino) architectures. The new chips will have the same "Ts" as the current generation of desktop and server processors, alongside mobile processor power optimizations.
The "Ts" provide a range of extra features, from chip-level virtualization to onboard management tools.
Intel also has decided the future is going to be multi-core, with more than one processing element on each chip.
By 2007, it expects to ship nothing but multi-core processors to server and workstations customers, and predicts they will be used in more than 90 percent of desktops and notebooks. Today's single-core chips will survive only in the cheapest desktops and laptops.
Intel now has 15 multi-core projects under way. All its next generation of processors will be at least dual core, even for mobile machines.
Pentium D and Extreme Edition dual-core systems are already shipping. The server processors, code-named Paxville, will be here by the end of the year, with the mobile Yonah processor following early next year.