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Speed is the essence

Desktop processors to hit 15GHz by 2010, says Intel

Users can expect to see the processing speed of Intel's desktop processors hit 15GHz by 2010, while chips powering wireless devices and PDAs (personal digital assistants) will reach 5GHz, according to the chip maker's chief technology officer.

The 15GHz desktop chip, some five times as fast as the company's soon-to-be-launched 3GHz Pentium 4 processor, will pack one billion transistors, said Pat Gelsinger (pictured), vice president and chief technology officer of Intel as he delivered a keynote address to the company's Intel Developer Forum Japan conference in Tokyo today.

Gelsinger would not disclose whether he expected these speeds to be seen in Pentium 4 processors or those based around a new architecture. Intel has said previously that the current Pentium 4 architecture is good up to around 10GHz.

"We haven't been specific," he said at a post-keynote news conference. "You would look a major micro-architecture like the Pentium 4 and it is typically five to eight years that you would operate on that same micro-architecture until you would introduce a major new one. So while I expect that timeline to be fairly similar, we have not laid out a specific new major micro-architecture step that we will be taking."

In the wireless and PDA space, Gelsinger said, the company is expecting to see speeds rise from the current 400MHz to 5GHz over the same eight-year period. That timescale is longer than the four to five years Intel took moving its desktop processors through the same speed improvements, as there are power concerns that need to be taken into account in designing processors for wireless and handheld devices.

"Desktops today are [consuming power of] 75 to 100 Watts and when you go to handheld devices you are typically operating at less than one Watt," said Gelsinger. "Obviously, you are optimising the design for different criteria. So today, if I was going to look at a StrongArm or XScale core, could I create a 2GHz or 3GHz XScale today? Absolutely. Could I do so and deliver the best trade-off of power and performance inside a one-Watt envelope? No. You tend to design the chips differently to live inside different devices."


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