Intel plans to release a version of its Pentium desktop processor this year that can run up to four software tasks at the same time. Called the Pentium processor Extreme Edition, the chip will include two processor cores, each of which will support Intel's Hyper-Threading technology, making it ideal for users who are running games or digital audio and video on their PCs.
Intel plans to ship the processor in combination with a new chipset called the Intel 955X Express, said company spokeswoman Shannon Love. The chipset, which is code-named "Glenwood," will include DDR-2 (Double Data Rate 2) memory, the PCI-Express interconnect and support for Intel's High Definition Audio technology.
A dual-core Pentium without the Hyper-Threading technology is expected in the same time-frame, Love said. Code-named "Smithfield," this processor will be available in two separate chipsets, called the 945G Express and the 945P Express.
Interestingly, Intel appears to have changed branding strategy with this first of its dual-core chips. Instead of including a number after the name Pentium, as the company has done since the advent of the Pentium II in 1997, the multithreaded processor will simply be called Pentium processor Extreme Edition.
Intel decided that including a number after the Pentium brand name would have been too unwieldy, Love said. She said there were other reasons behind the missing digit as well, but declined to explain them, and declined to say if the Smithfield processor would follow a similar convention.
One industry analyst said he expects Intel to change naming conventions with its dual-core processors. "They've changed their branding strategy with every major architecture change in the past," said Dean McCarron, principal analyst with Mercury Research. "It would be reasonable to expect that dual-core gets some brand flavor of its own."
Intel is now using so many terms to modify the names of its processors that it may make sense to drop the numeral altogether, which he called the "least descriptive" part of an Intel processor name. But McCarron cautioned against attributing too much significance to the Pentium processor Extreme Edition nomenclature. "With it now showing up on the label of one really low-volume specialty product, I guess I wouldn't read too much into that."
Initial versions of the dual-core Pentiums have now been manufactured, and Intel expects to deliver both products, along with their respective chipsets, by the end of June, Love said.
Intel's decision to add a Hyper-Threaded Pentium processor to its road map comes four months after the company shelved plans to deliver a 4GHz single-core Pentium processor, which had been expected in early 2005. At the time, the chip maker explained the decision by saying it planned to instead focus on other priorities, like delivering multicore capabilities to its upcoming processors.
Though Intel's first dual-core chips are only starting to emerge, they will dominate the company's product line by 2006. Dual-core chips will account for more than 80 percent of the server chips and 70 percent of the Pentium desktop and mobile processors sold by the chip maker next year, Intel predicts.
Intel is expected to ship a 64-bit version of its single-core Pentium, called the 6XX, within the next two months. After that, however, the company has no other publicly announced single-core chips on the Pentium road map, Love said.
(Tom Krazit in San Francisco contributed to this report.)