In a race with rival Advanced Micro Devices, Intel will bring its quad-core chips to market in a new line of Hewlett-Packard workstations due to be introduced on Nov. 13.
HP sent out invitations to the event but did not specify exact models and prices. The computers will probably use Intel's planned Xeon 5300 chip, and are designed to run high-end applications like seismic analysis and visualization software from Autodesk, Parametric Technology, Landmark Graphics, and Ansys.
The launch would mean that Intel brings quad-core processors to market before AMD, a crucial win in a year when Intel has made as many headlines for its layoffs and missed earnings targets as for its technology.
AMD plans to release its own quad-core chips in the middle of 2007, and claims its monolithic design is superior to Intel's plan, which essentially glues two dual-cores chips together. But without having any hardware to test, analysts are divided on whether this detail will significantly affect the chips' performance.
Intel Chief Executive Paul Otellini defended the company's design at last month's Intel Developer Forum, saying that customers would care more about the pure speed and performance of their computers than about how the chips inside it are packaged.
Compared to the ratcheting of clock speeds in conventional chips above 3GHz and 4GHz, multiple-core chips can accelerate processing tasks in desktops and servers without drawing more electricity and generating extra heat. They can also handle more than one instruction set at a time, allowing computers to multitask more efficiently.
The game enthusiast market will be a testing ground for the first quad-core chips, as Intel has already arranged to ship its "Core 2 Extreme" version of the chip to 13 gaming PC vendors, including Dell, Gateway, and VoodooPC, Otellini said at the show. The company plans to ship the "Core 2 Quad" version for mainstream desktops in the first quarter of 2007.
In contrast, the launch with HP next month will focus on high-end users in the fields of digital content creation, computer-aided engineering and design and oil and gas exploration.
One of the earliest users of quad-core chips is the Gates Planetarium at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. On Thursday, HP invited reporters to witness the technology at a Nov. 13 press conference called "Quad Fest."