The two most visible pieces of Intel Corp.'s revamped product design strategy, the Pentium D and accompanying 945 chipset, were finally released Thursday at an event in San Francisco. PC users in offices and living rooms can now purchase systems with dual-core processors as well as chipsets that incorporate a number of new technologies designed to boost performance.
Technically, the Pentium D is Intel's second dual-core processor, following the introduction of the Pentium Extreme Edition in April. But the new Pentium D 840, 830 and 820 chips are much less expensive than the Pentium Extreme Edition, and will introduce dual-core technology to far more users than the Extreme Edition chip.
The launch of the 945G chipset also brings several new technologies, such as virtualization, system management and high-definition audio to both consumer and business users. Intel on Thursday launched the Professional Business Platform with its Pentium 4 600 series processors, the 945G and 945P chipsets, and the Intel Pro/1000 Network Adapter as its first desktop platform modeled on the success of its Centrino notebook PC platform. The 945G chipset features integrated graphics, while the 945P chipset is designed for use with a third-party graphics card.
2004 was a turning point in Intel's recent history. The company made two crucial decisions about its product design strategies, opting to accelerate the development of dual-core processors and focus on integrating technology that boosts overall system performance without relying on increases to clock speed or cache size.
A four-year ride up the clock speed ladder allowed Intel to reach new performance heights, but as the Pentium 4 surged past 3GHz, it became harder and harder to reach the next speed grade due to overheating. Likewise, there's only so much cache memory a chip maker can add before the processor becomes too large to be manufactured efficiently. Building two processor cores on to a single chip will allow Intel to increase performance without having to worry about melting the inside of a PC chassis.
But the company also wants to improve the user experience without having to rely solely on processor performance. This is Intel's "platform" strategy, or its plans for building new technologies into its chipsets. The company started doing this with its hyperthreading technology several years ago, and introduced 64-bit extensions to the desktop earlier this year through chipsets.
Now IT managers will be able to remotely manage PCs even if they are shut down through Intel Active Management Technology (AMT), one component of the 945G chipset. AMT allows administrators to download software updates to a PC or take inventory of their network through a protected part of the chipset and processor that is transparent to the user.
Business users can also take advantage of virtualization technology in the 945G chipset to run multiple operating systems on a single PC, or create partitions on a system. These capabilities are available on servers with software, but the performance of that software is dramatically enhanced by hardware dedicated to virtualization.
While the business features may help users pay the bills, Intel designed some new technology into its chipsets for home PC users more concerned with entertainment. The integrated graphics in the 945G chipset are the company's best yet, and the inclusion of high-definition audio and noise-reduction technology will improve the sounds home users want to hear and stifle the ones they don't, Intel said.
On Thursday, Intel's PC partners announced several new systems available worldwide with the new technology, both for consumers and business users.
Dell Inc.'s new Dimension 9100 supports either the dual-core 800 series chips or the 600 series Pentium 4 chips. A base configuration with the new 945P chipset costs US$1,299 with the Pentium 4 630 processor, 512M bytes of DDR2 (double data rate 2) memory, a 160G-byte hard drive, a DVD-ROM/CD-RW drive, a 17-inch CRT (cathode ray tube) monitor and a Radeon X300SE graphics card from ATI Technologies Inc. with 128M bytes of video memory.
Hewlett-Packard Co. is making the dual-core 800 processors available on several existing models in its Pavilion lineup, and is also introducing a new desktop for business customers and new workstations based on Intel's new technology. The Compaq dc7600 Business desktop starts at $564 with a Celeron processor, but is available with both 600 series and 800 series processors. Pricing information was not immediately available for the xw4300 workstation, which will also use either 600 series or 800 series processors.
Lenovo Group Ltd.'s ThinkCentre A52 and M52 desktops will be available later this year with the dual-core processors and the new chipsets. This will be the first time Lenovo, or IBM Corp., has brought Intel's 64-bit chips to the ThinkCentre line, recently acquired along with the ThinkPad notebook lineup by Lenovo. Specific pricing information was not available, but the systems should cost between $700 and $800, a Lenovo spokeswoman said.
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