updated 4/18/2005 9:42:52 AM ET 2005-04-18T13:42:52

After months of talking up the benefits of single chips with two computing engines instead of one, Intel Corp. said computer makers will start shipping PCs with its "dual-core" microprocessors on Monday.

The chips will boost performance of PCs running multiple programs at once or a single program that's been optimized to work on a dual-core system.  But depending how the PC is used, some users might see a performance decrease over the fastest single-core processors.

Intel's first dual-core chip, the Pentium Extreme Edition 840, will be available in systems from Dell Inc., Alienware and others.  Intel declined to release prices, but today's single-core Extreme Edition chips run about $1,000 each — nearly $400 more than the fastest Pentium 4.

The announcement is the culmination of an acrimonious race between Intel and archrival Advanced Micro Devices Inc.  Both promised to be the first to launch dual-core chips, and it seems Intel is beating AMD by just a few days.

AMD says its microprocessors have been designed from the ground up with dual-core capabilities in mind.  Intel, AMD says, glued together two chips in a rush to catch up.

Intel has "made a series of apparent hurried, reactionary moves to rush their product to market before ours, hoping to claim a hollow victory," according to a statement attributed to Marty Seyer, general manager of AMD's Microprocessor Business Unit.

"We'll leave the debates over design elegance to others," said Intel spokeswoman Laura Anderson in an e-mail Friday.  "At the end of the day, what matters is the platform value that is being delivered to the marketplace for the people who use the technology."

Anderson said Intel has long planned to launch its chip next week, which coincides with the 40th anniversary of Moore's Law , company co-founder Gordon Moore's famous prediction that the number of transistors and other components crammed on an integrated circuit would double ever two years.  That prediction set the pace of innovation for the semiconductor industry.

For its part, AMD says it set its April 21 announcement because that's the two-year anniversary of the launch of its Opteron microprocessor — the first chip that could process data in 64-bit chunks and remain backward compatible with today's 32-bit chips.

Intel, a much larger company than AMD, didn't have an offering similar to Opteron until this year.

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