IDF Spring 2006

As Spring IDF 2006 kicks off, Justin Rattner takes the stage for the opening keynote.

This Spring the opening keynote at IDF was delivered by Intel Chief Technology Officer, Justin Rattner and his message was very clear indeed – energy efficiency. Rattner’s opening slide boldly stated that “Energy is the next frontier” and I don’t think that he was referring solely to the IT industry. Energy consumption is a topic that’s at the forefront of much of the population on a global level, so it comes as no surprise that this is a subject that’s also at the forefront of Intel’s development programme.

The performance per watt issue is one that Intel has extolled about extensively in the past, but it appears that this is now the key to the future strategy. Historically, the amount of energy needed to execute a single instruction has increased with each processor line, but with the breakthrough at Intel’s Israeli lab, that resulted in the Banias processor – or Pentium M as it was eventually called – proved that you could produce ongoing generations of more powerful chips without increasing the power draw. Now, Core Duo has taken the Pentium M to the next level, again without the penalty of a hefty hike in power needs.

There’s no denying that the Core Duo is a great chip, but it still lacks some of the features that its desktop siblings sport – 64bit instructions, virtualisation etc. So the question is whether we’ll see these features added to the Core Duo range, and thankfully the answer is yes. In fact the Core Duo chip is just the first piece in Intel’s next generation processor line-up, complete with a snappy new name “Intel Core Microarchitecture”.

Rattner cited Intel’s impressive ability to shrink the manufacturing process of its chips as a major advantage when it comes to squeezing more cores and more features into its CPUs. Intel is already online with 65nm production, while the company recently demonstrated a 45nm sample – the smaller the process, the more cores and features can be squeezed into a single package.

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