SAN JOSE, Calif. – Here's what to expect this week from the Intel Developer Forum in San Francisco based on my reading of the online program and the chatter I hear.
Intel will provide the first details of Sandy Bridge, its new 32nm microprocessor architecture that will power a broad range of its chips over the next two years. It will roll out at least one and maybe more Atom-based SoCs including Groveland a chip aimed at set-top boxes. And it will provide more details on the technical thinking behind its $7.7 billion acquisition of McAfee Inc. that left many pundits scratching their heads.
I would be very surprised if those were not the top headlines of the week. But there will be more.
IDF will play host to coming out parties for USB and PCI Express 3.0. In addition, there will be a smattering of news tidbits about support for parallel programming in Intel multicore processors.
It's not unusual for Intel to throw out a few surprise industry initiatives. Every year there are a couple big or small ones lobbed out like unexpected grenades.
Intel is the world's largest semiconductor company by far, dominating one of the world's biggest chip markets—computing. As if that was not motivation enough, the Type-A company has an outsized corporate ego that inspires everyone from its top execs to its middle-level managers to be bold about trying to change the universe into something more to their liking.
But the big, expected news is Sandy Bridge, Intel's first architecture to merge graphics and x86 cores on a single die. It's also its first to support new vector graphics and AES security instructions.
Sandy Bridge requires some changes to Quick Path Interconnect, Intel's processor bus. The architecture also has implications both for graphics and embedded developers which Intel will articulate in technical sessions.
Just weeks ago, archrival Advanced Micro Devices gave the first peak of Bobcat and Bulldozer, its first new x86 cores designed from a clean sheet of paper in nearly a decade. Intel is running at a faster cadence, doing planned upgrades every four years on chief executive Paul Otellini's new "tick-tock" strategy of introducing a new process every two years followed by a new chip architecture.
So, when the smoke from IDF 2010 clears at the end of the day Wednesday, pundits should have a clearer view of what the technical battle lines will be between Intel and AMD for the next couple years. Of course we won't know how all that will play out until we see how well the two companies execute on delivering solid chips with these new architectures, but Intel typically has the edge in execution.