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Summary:

They are fast becoming the Grumpy Old Men of Silicon Valley: Santa Clara, Calif.-based Intel Corp. (INTC) and Advanced Micro Devices (AMD), long-time rivals who bicker in public and spar over everything from clock speeds to BUS technologies, are at it again — this time over […]

grumpyoldmen.jpgThey are fast becoming the Grumpy Old Men of Silicon Valley: Santa Clara, Calif.-based Intel Corp. (INTC) and Advanced Micro Devices (AMD), long-time rivals who bicker in public and spar over everything from clock speeds to BUS technologies, are at it again — this time over quad core processors.

Essentially, quad core processors put four x86 cores into a single die – though for now AMD and Intel are using different technologies.

amd_7328_69997jpg.jpg(Most of us common people are only getting our heads around dual-core chips, or two x86 cores). Both companies are targeting the server market with these chips, as evidenced by AMD’s newest addition, code-named Barcelona, unveiled today.

With it, the Santa ClaraSunnyvale, Calif.-based Company is clearly hoping that the lightning is going to strike twice.
Strategic miscues, delays and other problems have put AMD on a slippery slope recently – not unlike the situation it found itself at the turn of the century, a situation that was rectified only when the high-end Opteron chip, which was also aimed at the server boxes, rode to its rescue. Now all chips (no pun intended) are on Barcelona (which is going to be renamed Quad Core Opteron.)

The problem is that its new offering is slower than expected (2 GHz). What’s worse is that Intel has already announced its own quad core offering, Caneland (aka Intel 7300). While Barcelona has four cores inside a single die, Intel is hawking a solution that packages two dual core processors together.

EETimes says that the difference between the two might be not that much, especially with Intel promising newer chips built using a 45 nanometer manufacturing process next year. Customers such as Sun Microsystems (JAVA) are happy to try out both solutions.

Having lost its edge in the dual-core business, AMD is also looking to use aggressive pricing to regain some of its momentum. Even though the server market is small compared with that of desktop and laptop computers, the price for processors used in the servers is pretty high. The new Barcelona chip is going to cost over $1,000. With 30 million or so new servers sold every year, decent market share can add up to billions in revenues.

Now all AMD has to do is figure out a way to sell the new quad cores. And get back to playing the part of Walter Matthau.

Coming tomorrow: Do MultiCore Processors Matter?

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  1. michael arrington Monday, September 10, 2007

    Om, I don’t understand. What does this have to do with the iPhone? :-)

  2. Tiny correction: AMD is based in Sunnyvale, not Santa Clara. (Intel’s the one in Santa Clara.)

  3. Tiny Correction: It’s lightning not lightening.

  4. “EETimes says there isn’t much difference between the two might be not that much,…”

    The above clause may need editing to clarify its intended meaning

  5. What? Are all your readers grammar geeks? I’ll wait for tomorrow – and I think I know the answer to your questions [tomorrow].

  6. Aaron Johnson (CyKiller) Monday, September 10, 2007

    Thanks Eideard for clearing that up – I was expecting someone to put the English major’s in their place. Anyways, good article, can’t wait to read the Multicore article. It think it would be good to get a test going for each, I am sure there has to be some difference.

  7. Michael,

    Sod off!

  8. Okay all typos fixed. Guys – sorry about that. very late night writing and sometimes after spending more than 14 hours in front of the computer screen, eyes play tricks.

  9. Aaron,

    Totally working on it right now and well, much fewer typos. I think this is an interesting chip – it does a lot more to put the industry forward and AMD is trying to shift the focus away from the clock speeds. More later. Meanwhile, if you have any suggestions please send them my way.

  10. Coming tomorrow: Do MultiCore Processors Matter?

    The simple answer is yes.

    The main reason for multi-core processors is for servers. When you put multiple cores in a computer verses multiple processors you save energy. SUN has been putting multi-core systems out for quite a long time now with SPARC. They’ve been primarily used in server farms where they company is looking for the best bang for the buck.

    A multi-core processor will out preform a single core in almost all server envornments. That is because server software has been designed to use multiple threads for the software.

    As for desktops, at this point there is no real need for more cores… yet. The issue here is that the software for the desktop is only slowly starting to take advantage of multiple cores.

    Take a look at the Mac Pro with 8 cores. Even with the backing of a *NIX based OS, most software does not preform better on this platform. There are certain pieces of software that will, such as final cut and other high end software. This is because it was designed for multiple cores and processors in mind.

    The real question is; when will more software support multiple cores? We know that the more cores the better, but the software is what is holding us back right now.

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