In the northern hemisphere, spring is always the time for new things: lambs, leaves and Larrabee chipsets. Yes, it's the Intel Developers Forum in Beijing again, where Intel shows off its latest kit to the other manufacturers.
Pride of place was given to the Nehalem chipset, which features up to eight cores and uses simultaneous multi-threading across up to four cores. Intel showed a 25 per cent increase in performance over Penryn processors, and up to a 33 per cent reduction in power usage.
Also demonstrated was a Nehalem-powered game engine, featuring a meteor strike and flames spreading realistically through a village, with graphics, physics and animal Al being handled by different parts of the processor. Intel's Ron Fosner said that multi-core chips could take over from discrete graphics cards, and are capable of providing a gaming experience reserved for top-end graphics cards. The Nehalem is expected in early 2009.
Still in its infancy, the Larrabee graphics processing unit marks Intel's re-entry into the graphics cards. It features a 16 to 24 core chipset, capable of processing different instructions for ray-tracing or physics effects. Intel also showed off its Tukwila and Dunnington processors. Details on the Tukwila are sketchy, but it's based on the Itanium chipset, will feature multiple cores and is due later this year. The Dunnington is the first Xeon chipset to make use of multiple cores.
Aside from Intel's offerings, Samsung displayed its ultra-slim 1.8-inch, 128GB solid state drive hard disks, and 4 to 8GB RAM configurations. Asus all-conquering Eee was shown with one of Intel's new Atom processors, which promises better battery life and higher performance. And Intel's own portable, learning-based Classmate 2 was paraded with a new 9-inch screen.
The most innovative third-party offerings was lightfield photography being touted by a digital photography company called ReFocus. Instead of capturing pixels, the tech traces the way light bounces around a scene. This results in pictures where every part of the image is in focus, and focus can even be adjusted after pictures have been taken. It's processor-intensive, but this could result in cheaper, lighter and more versatile digital cameras.
Another great idea was displayed by Compal. Its laptop cooling system uses heatpipes to transfer heat away from the processor and onto the laptop's lid, where it's dispersed. There are no fans or moving parts, and the interior of the laptop can be totally sealed.
PC architecture is going to change substantially in the next few years, with integration and scalability being at the heart of Intel's movements. In the future we can expect tiny PCs with graphics integrated into the processor and no moving parts, which can't be bad.