Intel has launched a new gaming and high-end computing platform called Skulltrail which includes two quad-core processors and graphic cards.

Skulltrail not only holds eight processors; it also gives users a choice of two multi-card graphics solutions - one from AMD's ATI division and one from nVidia.

"This shows Intel taking the lead in developing and bringing to market cutting-edge PC designs," said Dan Olds, an analyst at Gabriel Consulting Group. "Before, they tended to aim more for the middle-ground mass market and, in doing so, left the high-performance side of the market to others. Now, with this new combination, they've elbowed aside everyone else to take the lead in the PC performance race."

Olds noted that while the new platform will be largely welcomed by gamers, along with 3D animators and high-definition video editors, it also will have its place in corporate IT. "Right now, it's mainly for gamers, but there certainly are some enterprise workloads that will benefit," he added.

Intel also officially unveiled its Dual Socket Extreme Desktop Platform yesterday at the 2008 Game Developers Conference in San Francisco. The platform is the latest product to run Intel's 45-nanometre Penryn microprocessors, which hit the market last November.

The new platform's motherboard, Desktop Board D5400XS, is being paired with two Core 2 Extreme QX9775 processors.

"For the team creating world-class games here, time is one of our most valuable assets," said Robert A. Duffy, programming director at game maker Id Software. "Having eight powerful Intel cores in a single machine helps our team create and test our latest titles at record speed. We have seen one of our most time-consuming asset-generation processes cut from over four hours to under 20 minutes by utilising all eight cores and threading the generation code."

An interesting part of Intel's announcement is the fact that Intel is supporting graphics technology from ATI, which is owned by Intel rival AMD. Olds called this a smart move for Intel.

"It's a move toward gaining market share and also a hedge," said Olds. "If Intel doesn't support ATI graphics, then they automatically cede that market to AMD. Right now, nVidia owns the high ground in graphics, but that isn't a guarantee that they will forever. If ATI leapfrogs nVidia, Intel will be well positioned by supporting cards from both vendors."