Intel Demos Nehalem, Sets Penryn Launch Date

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Resurrecting one of the more annoying late 90s buzzwords, Intel CEO Paul Otellini built his keynote to open the Intel Developers Forum Tuesday in San Francisco around the concept of extremes -- in computing, mobility and entertainment, but also, rather head-scratchingly, in environmental responsibility and committing resources to children in the developing world.

Otellini was on track presenting Intel-driven innovation in areas such as WiMAX-enabled connectivity on mobile devices, the cutting edge of graphics-rich PC gaming and enterprise-level computational opportunities arising from terabyte flops of processing power.

But the "Extreme Becomes Mainstream" theme of the keynote began to lose a bit of its eye-popping explosiveness when his talk turned to Intel's participation in corporate responsibility projects like the EPA's Climate Savers Initiative and One Laptop Per Child (OLPC).

Those projects may have a shot at affecting considerably more lives than the release of "Mercenaries 2: World on Fire" by game developer Pandemic and recent Intel acquisition Havok. It's just that scraping the lead and halogen off CPUs seems a trifle less "Extreme!" than blowing up buildings and helicopters in wrap-around 3D glory.

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But who knows? Perhaps Intel plans to deliver OLPC laptops via base-jumping Alaskan crab fishermen on snowboards or something.

Interspersed with all the extreme demonstrations was the news that yes, Penryn will be ready to launch Nov. 12 and that Nehalem, due out sometime the first half of 2008, is already up and running the Windows and Macintosh OS X operating systems.

According to Otellini, Intel's 45nm process moves the chipmaker's silicon fabrication away from a thinning nitrided silicon dioxide gate insulator to a High-K metal gate, thus effectively halting the increasing problem of power loss via gate leakage associated with the S1O2 gate as dies get smaller in size. Intel will release 45nm die shrinks for desktop CPUs in 2008, he said.

Intel is "also on track for 32 nanometers in 2009," Otellini said, claiming that the chip leader had already produced "the first fully functioning product in the world on 32nm" on an SRAM device.

The packed house really pricked its ears when Otellini introduced the Nehalem section of the program. Due out in 2008, this major architecture redesign of Intel's multi-core products along modular lines will allow for robust configuration capabilities in such areas as core usage, cache, memory, threading and I/O, he said. Currently, Advanced Micro Device's "native" multi-core architecture allows for such configuring of individual cores, memory and threads, but Intel's does not.

Nehalem will feature 731 million transistors on a 45nm die, Otellini said. The first Nehalem processors rolled out of the fab about three weeks ago, he said, introducing Glenn Hinton, chief Nehalem architect and an Intel Fellow, to demo a system running on the next-generation processor.

"Hello Paul, I am Nehalem," spoke an electronic voice as Hinton fired the system up. Otellini remarked that while the Nehalem system on stage was running on Windows, it was also able to boot up Mac's OS X. The processor's first iteration will be launched on an eight-core platform with 16 threads, he said.