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Intel Outlines Processor Road Map At IDF

It's been a tough couple of years for Intel, and the company will lay out a comeback plan this week at the Intel Developers Forum in San Francisco. Intel hopes a better-performing Xeon processor that uses less power will put it on the right path and that a new line of chips that use a "next-generation microarchitecture" will vault it ahead of rival Advanced Micro Devices.

AMD beat Intel to market with key technologies such as 64-bit computing and dual-core processors, and its chips have outperformed Intel's in the increasingly critical performance-per- watt metric. That has let AMD grab market share from much larger Intel, which has had to revise its processor road map and ask its partners to be patient while it gets its technology house in order.

Intel isn't exactly hurting. It posted an impressive $38.8 billion in revenue last year, and its net income jumped 15% to $8.7 billion. But the world's largest supplier of microprocessors no longer seems invincible, and it's no longer the only choice for chips to power business computers. "Intel is trailing both in terms of basic performance and performance per watt," says Nathan Brookwood, an analyst with Insight 64. But he expects Intel's advantages to give it a push. "I think by the end of the year, they can be at near parity with AMD."

Humbling Assessment

Near parity? That's a humbling assessment for a company that dominated the PC and server market for many years. But a series of missteps and miscalculations has caused a growing number of business technology managers to seek out systems based on AMD chips. Jeffrey Skolnick, director of the Center for the Study of Systems Biology at the Georgia Institute of Technology, found that servers based on AMD processors were at least 25% more power efficient and provided 20% better performance than equivalent systems based on Intel Xeon processors when he was evaluating systems for an $8.5 million server cluster. "We were able to create this cluster with about half the servers that would have been required for an Intel-based deployment," Skolnick says.

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