Intel Touts Quad Cores, DirecTV, and…Sex

At the Intel Developer Forum being held thhis week in San Francisco, Intel said it plans to being offering quad-core processor chips as early as this November, touted a Viiv-enabled set-top box from DirecTV, and announced a $1 million contest to come up with small, sexy home PC designs.

Keeping up pressure on rival chipmaker AMD—even after the company announced 10,500 job cuts earlier this month—Intel announced it plans to start selling quad-core processors as soon as this November, as much as two months earlier than anticipated by industry watchers and analysts. The first quad-core processor will share the Core 2 Extreme monicker, and will target gamers and content creators, offering as much as a 70 percent performance boost over today’s Core 2 Extreme processors. "The industry is going through the most profound shift in decades, moving to an era where performance and energy efficiency are critical in all market segments and all aspects of computing," Otellini said. "As we move to high definition video, users will need eight times greater performance just for encoding. To that end, in the first quarter of 2007 Intel plans to roll out the Core 2 Quad processor for mainstream users; server customers will see Quad-Core Intel Xeon 5300 series (for dual-processor servers) later this year, and a new 50-watt Quad-Core Intel Zeon L5310 in early 2007 for blade servers. Intel CEO Paul Otellini extolled his companies forthcoming products, noting the user demands for processing power are increasing swiftly.

"More than ever processing power matters, even as the need to reduce heat, extend battery life, and reduce electricity costs in data centers becomes more critical," said Otellini.

Analysts aren’t sold on the idea that quad-core processors are going to help Intel in its fight against AMD in the short term, since they focus on high end applications and server technologies, and a good deal of AMD’s momentum is on the consumer side of the market. Nonetheless, Intel is pining hopes that its processor advances—and belt-tightening—will let the company recover marketshare lost to AMD in recent years.

Oh, and hey, remember Viiv? Intel’s vague "consumer" brand, having to do with…well, media stuff, and, um, home things, which Intel launched last year? Well, Intel and DirecTV are partnering up, using Viiv technology the create a set-top box with integrated digital media adapter (DMA) technology which will enable users to pipe their music and pictures from their Viiv PC to their television. As if, somehow, this wasn’t possible in a Viiv-less world. It’s taken the companies almost a year to get this far—they made their first public appearance as a couple at last January’s CES—and DirecTV hasn’t actually said when its products will hit the market. But it’s planning a new Viiv-certified DirecTV Plus HD DVR which will be able to record about 200 hours of standard definition video (that’s about 50 hours of HD programming in MPEG-4 format).

And if all that news wasn’t sexy enough, Intel also announced it wants to pay up to $1 million to PC developers and manufacturers to come up with small, stylish, and sexy personal computers for the home. Apparently, the "big biege box" doesn’t appeal to some design and style-conscious lifestyle types, so the Intel Core Processor Challenge will award up to $1 million to the PC designer and manufacturer who creates and builds the smallest and most stylist Viiv PC with Core 2 Duo processors. Intel will give the grand prize winner up to $300,000 to jumpstart production of the winning system, plus $400,000 for co-marketing with Intel. The first-place winner will receive up to $300,000 to help enable the mass production of their system. "Our intent with the Intel Core Processor Challenge is to think outside of the box—think sexy, small and sleek PCs optimized for multimedia entertainment – and we’re putting our money where our mouth is," said Eric Kim, intel’s vp and general manager of the Digital Home Group.

Think it might be a long shot, especially with Apple making Intel boxes these days? Remember: it’s gotta be a Viiv system, and that takes Cupertino out of the equation. So get out your CAD programs.

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