SAN JOSE, Calif. - For the first time in five years, Intel Corp. will make a major change in the plumbing of its chips by switching to a new design that promises better performance and lower power consumption than today's Pentium 4.
The world's largest chip maker will announce the architecture this month at a conference in San Francisco, spokesman Bill Calder said Thursday. Chips based on the new architecture are expected to debut in the second half of 2006.
The technology will replace the Netburst architecture that appeared in late 2000 with the Pentium 4 and enabled a path to higher processing frequencies. At the time, Intel hoped that it could boost performance by ratcheting up the speed of the chips.
But Netburst hit a roadblock last year as jumps in frequency failed to produce the expected improvements in overall performance. In addition, the chips required more power and thus generated considerably more heat.
"The original theory was Netburst would show increasing performance benefits with increasing frequency," said Nathan Brookwood, an analyst at the research firm Insight 64. "It didn't work quite the way Intel had anticipated."
Meanwhile, Intel's main rival, Advanced Micro Devices Inc., dropped out of the frequency race and engineered chips that do more work per clock tick rather than running at a faster pace. In most cases, AMD's technology bested Intel's chips.
Intel new architecture is expected to be based in part on Intel's Pentium M, which was developed to deliver performance and power savings in notebook computers. It also has roots in the Pentium III processor that Intel launched in 1999.
Like AMD's chips, the Pentium M's top clock speed is lower than the Pentium 4, which currently tops out at 3.8 gigahertz.
Brookwood said the change represents a bigger shift for Intel. In the past, Intel launched architectures on chips for desktop PCs and then carried the technology to other platforms, such as servers and notebooks.
"This next-generation part was originally designed and targeted for mobile," he said. "Now it's going to be proliferated onto desktops and servers. I think that in some ways is the bigger news than just the microarchitecture change."
Like the top of the line Pentium 4, the next-generation processors also are expected to have multiple computing engines on a single chip, security features and manageability functions.
"AMD will face tougher competition once Intel moves to the new architecture," Brookwood said. "But it's far too soon to be able to predict who's going to be ahead 18 months from now."