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Intel previews speed demons

Intel turns up with a bag full of Banias

Intel has spiced up Microsoft's developers conference with a peek at two of its key future technologies: the mobile chip Banias and the performance-boosting application it calls Hyper-Threading.

Banias is the first processor Intel has designed from the ground up for mobile use, said Paul Otellini, Intel's president and chief operating officer, in his keynote address at the Windows Hardware Engineering Conference in Seattle yesterday.

"It's architected for convergence, an uncompromised mobile platform that integrates 802.11 capability," said Otellini in a stirling display of non-standard English. Intel plans to launch the chip in 2003.

Intel received the first test silicon of the Banias chip last week and opted to risk embarrassment by demonstrating it today, Otellini said.

Using a prototype chipset, Otellini and an assistant successfully streamed video content from the web through the wireless connection and onto the video screen. It was the first public demonstration of a working Banias chip, he claimed.

The assistant went on to try to complete a telephone call through the web, but was unable to complete the call. The disconnect appeared to be a software problem, however, not a chip-related one.

Banias is a glimpse of tomorrow, but Intel has its eyes on the next day, too, Otellini said. Eventually every single Intel chip will contain a radio that handles wireless protocols, allowing users to move seamlessly among networks. The company likes to call that initiative 'Radio Free Intel', he said.

On the desktop, Intel continues to crank out faster processors: A 2.4GHz P4 is available today, a 2.5GHz P4 is scheduled to ship later this quarter and a 3GHz P4 is expected to ship this year, Otellini said.

However, the company is still working to squeeze more performance from those chips, he said. To do so, Intel has created a technology it calls Hyper-Threading, which it demonstrated first at its own Intel Developer Forum last August.

Expected to appear in 2003, Hyper-Threading lets an operating system use the single physical processor as if it were two processors, he said. This can lead to a performance boost as high as 30 percent, depending on the application.

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