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New Intel chips promise to improve online videos

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New York Times News Service / November 12, 2007

SAN FRANCISCO - Intel plans to announce a family of microprocessor chips today that it says will speed the availability of high-definition video via the Internet.

Sean Maloney, Intel's chief marketing officer, said the chips' increased computing power would begin the transformation of today's stuttering and blurry videos, the staple of YouTube and other video streaming sites, into high-resolution, full-screen quality that will begin to compete with the living room HDTV.

"Its biggest impact is high-definition video," he said. "It will be highly addictive."

As consumers clamor for more Internet video, a huge computing burden is placed on companies like Google, Microsoft, and providers of digital video, who must compress the video files so they can be streamed to desktop and portable computers.

Intel's new family, made up of 16 processors, would first be used in servers and high-end desktops that compress the video. They are the first chips based on a new manufacturing process that Intel says will give it a significant competitive advantage by increasing computing performance while reducing power consumption.

The chips use a re-engineered transistor that is about half the size of its predecessor. It switches more quickly, requires less switching power, and leaks less current.

The chip industry measures its progress by the width of one of the smallest features of a transistor. Much of the industry is now building chips in what is known as 90-nanometer technology (a nanometer is one-billionth of a meter). At that scale, about 1,000 transistors would fit in the width of a human hair. Intel began making chips at 65 nanometers in 2005, about nine months before its closest competitors. The new chips are at the next stage of refinement, just 45 nanometers. The company said it would be able to squeeze up to 820 million transistors onto a single silicon die.

The first products based on the new manufacturing technology will be Intel Core 2 and Xeon microprocessors. Chips for notebook PCs, marketed as the Intel Core 2 Extreme and Intel Core 2 Duo, will be available in the first quarter of next year.

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