San Jose Mercury News

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Intel chief executive Paul Otellini believes the world's biggest chip maker can get its mojo back by putting more processor cores on a single chip than the competition can.

Starting in November, Intel will put four cores -- or computing brains -- on a single chip to be as much as 70 percent faster than the company's fastest chips today, Otellini said at last week's Intel Developer Conference in San Francisco. Computers with these chips will be able to juggle more tasks at the same time, running security applications in the background while the user employs other programs.

The twice-a-year event at the Moscone West convention center has become Intel's best way to win over the hearts and minds of industry engineers and programmers. By using its manufacturing muscle and sheer engineering resources as an advantage, Intel is stepping up the pace of its product introductions. The company introduced a whole raft of chips during the summer, but now it is lining up customers for the "quad-core chips" coming later this year.

Otellini used the announcement to show Intel is now ready to surpass its rival Advanced Micro Devices in computing innovations. For the past couple of years the popular view has been Intel is lagging.

"Perception doesn't change overnight," Otellini said during a question-and-answer session after his speech. "You're seeing Intel rebuilding itself and regaining momentum."

To reinforce the point, Otellini invited an Apple Computer executive on stage at the conference for the first time. Phil Schiller, senior vice president at Cupertino, Calif.-based Apple, said his company had pulled off a complicated switch to Intel's chips across its entire product line.

"This transition is just the beginning of the amazing things we can do together," Schiller said.

But Hector Ruiz, CEO of AMD, said last week he didn't expect Apple to stay loyal to Intel forever now that it is a trivial engineering task for Apple to adopt AMD's compatible chips.

Analysts have noted Intel's first quad-core design is weak, since it is little more than two dual-core chips glued together. Still, Otellini said users would only care about the added performance, not the design itself. And AMD isn't expected to have its own quad-core chips until the middle of next year.

"I think that AMD has a tough row to hoe now," said Roger Kay, an analyst at Endpoint Technologies. "Intel is ahead of AMD.

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