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Intel demos Pentium 4 at 2GHz

SAN JOSE, CALIFORNIA (IDG) -- Intel cranked a Pentium 4 processor up to 2GHz on Tuesday morning in a technology demonstration designed to show off the prowess of its forthcoming desktop PC chip.

The Pentium 4, due in PCs in the fourth quarter, is based on an entirely new chip design -- or microarchitecture -- that was designed from the ground up for computing on the Internet, Albert Yu, senior vice president in charge of Intel's microprocessor products group, said at the start of the company's developer conference here.

Called NetBurst, the architecture was designed from scratch for running multimedia applications, such as streaming audio and video, as well as for crunching the kind of algorithms used to encrypt data sent securely over the Web.

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"The Pentium 4 processor will be the fastest desktop platform in the world," Yu promised an audience of software and hardware developers assembled here. "This is a brand new microarchitecture ... this was done with a blank piece of paper."

Intel has shipped 6,000 prototype Pentium 4 PCs to developers, who are busy developing applications, peripherals and other products that will work with Pentium 4 systems, he said.

Intel has said it plans to introduce the Pentium 4 at 1.4 GHz or higher. It showed a prototype PC here that sported a 1.5GHz processor, followed by the technology demonstration, in which a Pentium 4 was ratcheted up to 2002MHz, or slightly over 2GHz.

The demonstration appeared to be designed to show just how much clock speed Intel may be able to squeeze out of its new chip design. The chip was not cooled by any artificial cooling equipment, Craig Barrett, Intel's CEO, said at the press conference after. He wouldn't be drawn about when Intel might ship a 2GHz chip commercially.

Intel's main rival, Advanced Micro Devices, launched a new chip design of its own earlier this year in a processor called Athlon. The chip has received positive reviews, and Intel and AMD have been locked in a race to deliver ever-faster chips. Clock speed is only one factor affecting processor performance, but it's one that consumers pay close attention to.

Other features that should boost the performance of the Pentium 4 include a 400MHz system bus, which is about three times faster than the bus on the Pentium III. The bus is a data conduit that carries information between the processor and other parts of the PC. In theory, a faster bus should improve the processor's performance.

At the core of the chip is what Intel calls a Rapid Execution Engine, an enhancement that allows the core of the processor to operate at twice the frequency than the rest of the chip, Yu said.

"This is brand new for us," he said.

The Pentium 4 also features a deeper pipeline than the Pentium III. A deeper pipeline is one of the improvements that allows the chip to achieve higher clock speeds.

The chip sports 256K bytes of on-chip level 2 cache memory. It will be built initially using Intel's 0.18-micron manufacturing process, moving to 0.13-micron process in mid- to late 2001, Yu said at a press conference after his speech.

In his keynote speech Tuesday, Barrett identified peer-to-peer networking -- popularized by Napster's music file sharing service -- as an important growth opportunity.

While Napster is a consumer example of peer-to-peer computing, with the right networking technologies in place, businesses will be able to use it to harness the power of multiple computers connected to the Internet to run compute-intensive applications, he said.

"We think there are huge ramifications in the business arena in terms of peer to peer networking," he said.

By way of demonstration, he was joined on stage by a representative from Applied MetaComputing, which makes operating system software for distributed peer-to-peer applications. The company has worked with Boeing to develop a system that uses multiple workstations to simulate the flow of air over an aircraft's wing.

Challenges to be overcome include security issues, the complexity of managing multiple distributed systems, and the mistrust that may exist between companies sharing each other's computing resources, Barrett said.

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