Intel preps new processors at facility opening

23 Jun 2006

Processor maker Intel opened its latest chip-manufacturing facility at Leixlip yesterday, the third of the company’s facilities to produce semiconductors with 65-nanometer technology and the first in Europe to produce these in high volume.

Called Fab 24-2, the wafer-fabrication facility at Leixlip is said to be one of the most advanced high-volume semiconductor manufacturing plants in the world building multi-core microprocessors, along with Intel’s Fab 12 in Arizona and D1D Fab in Oregon. “Every time we build one of these things we plunk down US$2bn plus; we say we’re building platforms for products that don’t exist yet. We’re always betting on the future,” said Intel president and CEO Paul Otellini at the opening of the plant yesterday.

The processors made at Leixlip will be used in PCs and servers and will offer greater speed and lower power consumption than earlier versions, Otellini added. With its three 65-nanometer factories, Intel is now producing more than half its PC and server microprocessors using this process technology.

Intel has been feeling the heat lately from its closest rival AMD and has seen its market share reduced. Otellini confirmed that the company would look at some restructuring moves which are likely to be announced next month at an earnings call.

In the weeks ahead Intel is due to introduce three processors which some observers have said will be among the most significant yet launched by the company. The first of these is the Dual-Core Xeon processor 5100 series, formerly known by the codename Woodcrest. “It not only delivers higher performance, it’s 40pc faster and has 40pc lower power. The combination of that, as a user, is significant,” said Otellini.

Next will be Core 2 Duo processors for desktop PCs and notebooks. The former, which was known in development as Conroe, will be especially suited to high-end gamers, who are “not a giant part of the market but a significant one,” commented Otellini. The laptop processors, previously codenamed Merom, are said to offer higher performance and longer battery life. “These products, we believe, are extremely competitive and we’ll ramp them more rapidly than any microprocessor architecture ever before,” Otellini added.

During the opening ceremony of Fab 24-2, Otellini and Taoiseach Bertie Ahern TD signed a ‘memorandum of understanding’, outlining a commitment from the Irish Government and Intel to investigate ways to increase internet and PC penetration in Ireland.

By Gordon Smith