Intel Corp. fired a pair of technical salvos at smaller rival Advanced Micro Devices Inc. on Tuesday, announcing a November launch date for its next generation of chips and showing off its momentum in manufacturing technology.
Chief Executive Paul Otellini told a crowd of thousands at the Intel Developer Forum here that the company's next cycle of microprocessors, code-named Penryn, will begin shipping Nov. 12.
Microprocessors are the calculating engines inside personal computers and the servers that power corporate networks and the Internet. Intel is the world microprocessor leader, commanding more than three-quarters of the market.
Its new chips boast a 20 percent performance boost and increased energy efficiency over the previous generation, in part because of advances in chip-making technology that shrinks the size of the circuitry and new materials used inside the transistors to keep energy from escaping.
Energy loss is a major problem when the size of transistors, the building blocks of computer chips, approach the atomic scale.
The average size of the circuitry on Intel's new chips is 45 nanometers wide, or 45 billionths of a meter. Intel says the transistors are small enough that more than 30 million of them could fit onto the head of a pin.
Intel and AMD both make chips now with 65-nanometer circuitry, and Intel is racing ahead in the transition to smaller and smaller sizes.
"Intel is cranking on all cylinders," Otellini said in an interview. "We're pushing the technology as fast as we ever have as a company but on a broader front."
Otellini said Intel plans to have 15 new processors based on 45-nanometer technology by the end of the year, and another 20 in the first quarter of 2008.
AMD spokesman Gary Silcott said Tuesday that the company is on track to deliver its own chips based on 45-nanometer technology in mid-2008. AMD has a technology development agreement with IBM Corp.
Otellini also showed off a wafer with test chips that were built on 32-nanometer technology. Those chips won't be made for the mass market until 2009, but Intel's first public unveiling of the technology further highlights its manufacturing lead over AMD.
The chip Otellini showed off contains 1.9 billion transistors and incorporates logic functions as well as a type of memory known as static random access memory, or SRAM.
However, while AMD is racing to catch up to Intel in manufacturing technology, it's already ahead in a key design feature that Intel is now adopting — a memory controller built directly into the microprocessor.
The feature will be incorporated in Intel processors made on 45-nanometer technology and featuring an overhauled design that are on track to begin selling in the second half of 2008, Otellini said. The processors are code-named Nehalem.
Intel suffered a 42 percent drop in profits last year as AMD stole market share and pressured prices. The company has regained its financial footing this year with a new product lineup.