Battle of the Quad Cores

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. [digg=http://digg.com/hardware/Battle_of_the_Quad_Cores]

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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