The chipmaker, which discussed its plans in a wide-ranging meeting with financial analysts on Thursday, said it aims to boost the performance of a broad range of its products next year, including cranking up its desktop PC processors.
"Our goal is to hit 4GHz in 2004," Intel President Paul Otellini said during a meeting that was Webcast.
Intel is aiming to reach that clock speed with Prescott, an upcoming processor for desktop computers that will be built using a 90-nanometer manufacturing process. (A nanometer is a billionth of a meter.) Prescott is scheduled to ship this quarter to PC makers, Otellini said. But it's not expected to come in desktop PCs until early next year. Right now, Intel's fastest chip is the 3.2GHz Pentium 4.
While a 4GHz processor may seem fast, as least one analyst said the jump isn't a particularly large one for a brand-new processor.
"I would be really surprised if Intel didn't hit 4GHz in 2004. But don't dismiss the possibility it could blow by that mark," Mercury Research analyst Dean McCarron said.
Opinions on the importance of raw processor clock speed differ. Where Intel has always emphasized the speed of its high-end desktop processors--saying the Pentium 4's extra speed helps boost the performance of multimedia applications--other chipmakers, like rival Advanced Micro Devices, maintain that overall performance, measured by the work a chip can accomplish per clock cycle, is more important. The Athlon FX-51 chip is currently AMD's fastest chip, at 2.2GHz.
Intel also plans to increase production of Prescott processors quickly enough to ship 70 million of them in 2004, Otellini said.
The chipmaker expects that Prescott processors will be found in 60 percent of performance desktop PCs sold in 2004, while a Celeron derivative of the chip will garner 40 percent of lower-priced desktop machines, Otellini said.
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