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Intel demonstrates first 32 nanometer chips

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Apparently, Intel wants to advance the official launch of the first 32 nanometer chips. The focus of its presentation during the International Solid-State Circuits Conference was not its new eight-core Xeon, but the first demonstration of processors using Westmere architecture – code name used for the products of its new manufacturing process.

The first Westmere processors demonstrated will give rise to two distinct platforms: Clarkdale (for desktops) and Annendale (for notebooks). Both are dual-core, with a design based on the same structure as the Core i7, but with two essential details: in addition to the 32 nanometer processor itself, the chips have a DDR3 memory interface and a 45 nanometer graphics processor.

It is not capable of replacing a dedicated GPU, but its operation is similar to that of the two NVIDIA GeForce MacBooks Pro: in situations that require energy savings, it is possible to exchange the independent graphics chip for the integrated chip itself. This integration allows Intel to focus its resources on more efficient products, which reach the market faster and sell much more, as they allow the creation of lower cost products.

However, there is much more than that on the way to the market. Without the need for a dedicated structure and a high-efficiency manufacturing process like those of Xeon, the Gulftown platform promises to be the top of the line for commercial desktops with six cores. Thanks to Hyperthreading technology, the processor can run 12 program tasks at once. In addition, all chips based on the Westmere architecture support Hyperthreading during virtualization: theoretically, this allows a virtual machine to use two (or more) processor cores to run.

As it is dedicating itself more to its 32 nanometer manufacturing process, Intel has postponed some launches based on Nehalem architecture, but they are still on the list of news for 2009. Between late March and early April, the launches of the new four- and eight-core Xeon based on Nehalem architecture. According to Stephen Smith, vice president and chief operating officer of Intel's corporate group, both models are in production and support the possibility of a new Mac Pro being launched in the same release period as the new Xeon.

As for MacBooks, rumors indicate that they will be updated with Core i7 chips only in the fourth quarter of this year. Also based on the 32 nanometer manufacturing process, they will take a longer time to gain space on Apple's line of notebooks, which indicates that an upgrade between the current and Core i7 based ones is yet to come.