Ultra-small PCs that fit on a single chip. Batteries that recharge without cables. TVs that respond to your every gesture. These and other developing technologies will fundamentally change the way you think about and use your computer. PC Advisor looks at the technology of tomorrow.
If your CPU has only a single core, it's officially a dinosaur. Quad-core computing is now commonplace. But we're really just at the beginning of the core wars. Leadership in the CPU market will soon be decided by which company offers the most cores, rather than by the fastest clock speed.
What is it?
With the gigahertz race largely abandoned, both AMD and Intel are trying to pack more cores on to a die in order to continue to improve processing power and assist with multitasking operations.
Miniaturising chips further will be critical to fitting these cores and other components into a limited space. Intel will roll out 32-nanometre (nm) processors in 2009.
When is it coming?
Now. Intel has been very good about sticking to its road map. A six-core CPU based on the Itanium design launched in November, when Intel shifted focus to a new architecture called Nehalem, marketed as Core i7. Core i7 features up to eight cores, with eight-core PCs available in 2009 or 2010.
An eight-core AMD project (Montreal) is reportedly expected in 2009.
After that, the timeline gets fuzzy. Intel reportedly cancelled a 32-core project called Keifer, scheduled for 2010, possibly because of its complexity. To use that many cores you need a new way of dealing with memory. Apparently, you can't have 32 brains pulling out of one central pool of RAM.
Even so, we expect cores to proliferate when the kinks are ironed out: 16 cores by 2011 or 2012 is plausible (when transistors are predicted to drop again in size to 22nm), with 32 cores by 2013 or 2014 easily within reach.
Intel says "hundreds" of cores may come even further down the line.
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