Can there be too much of a good thing? When it comes to Intel’s effort to claw its way out of an earnings hole, the answer is no. Despite a paucity of software that can even use the extra horsepower, the microchip giant last week released its quad-core Xeon 5300 processor, capable of running 50 percent faster than its predecessor, the “Woodcrest” dual-core Xeon 5100.
After pushing his company through a season of layoffs and reorganization, Intel CEO Paul Otellini rushed to launch the new chip technology, which was code-named “Clovertown,” before rival AMD, released its “Barcelona” quad-core Opteron chip, due out in mid-2007.
Quad-core processors act like four chips in a single computer, finishing complicated tasks fast by breaking them into smaller pieces and solving them simultaneously. However, software must be written to take advantage of the quad-core architecture.
That’s most likely to happen first in high-end applications for business, science, and entertainment, Otellini said.
Still, Intel’s partners seem ready to bet on the quad-core Xeon’s success. Dell, Hewlett-Packard, and IBM have ordered the chips for new systems. Quad-core chips will also make a big splash in the niche market of high-end PC gaming, where users need the extra power to run faster graphics in higher resolution. New systems using Intel’s Core 2 Extreme QX6700 quad-core chip are coming soon from Alienware, Dell, Gateway, and others.