by Andy Patrizio
In 2006, Intel instituted a new engineering policy called “Tick/Tock.” Tick would be a shrink of the existing architecture, and Tock would be a whole new architecture built on the current process technology. The company would alternate between the two every year.
The last “Tock” was Sandy Bridge, introduced in 2011, and the last “Tick” was “Ivy Bridge,” which took the 32nm Sandy Bridge and shrunk it down to 22nm. So the next step is a new architecture. That will be Haswell, and according to DigiTimes, it will be introduced in early June at the Computex show in Taipei.
An Intel spokesman would not confirm the DigiTimes date but did say the company has publicly said “middle of the year” for the new architecture. Intel likes to keep a few secrets for the launch, but it has said that compared to Ivy Bridge, Haswell will offer up to twice the 3D graphics performance, support for DirectX 11, OpenCL 1.2, OpenGL 4.0 and native 4K x 2K video playback.
Those are mostly GPU enhancements. Haswell is first and foremost a CPU. However, the market has shifted to tablets and smartphones, turning the PC into an also-ran. At the most recent Intel Developer Forum (IDF) last fall, there was barely any discussion of the desktop.
Intel is also preparing to wind down its motherboard business and leave that business to third-party OEMs. The company will ramp down the desktop motherboard business over the next three years and the engineers on the project will work on new desktop and mobile form factors.
But Intel isn’t giving up on desktop CPUs. Haswell will also feature considerable improvements to its Floating Point Unit (FPU) and a new set of Advanced Vector Extensions (AVX). From what has been disclosed, Haswell will be capable of up to 32 single-precision and 16 double-precision floating point operations per core, double the performance of Sandy Bridge. The L1 and L2 cache will also be greatly enhanced, increasing on-chip performance.
Yet at the same time, its real claim to fame will be a reduction in power consumption. Haswell will significantly reduce power consumption. even more than Intel originallyexpected, according to Jim McGregor, president of Tirias Research.
“Their major push for Haswell is that this is the first major part they designed for ultrabooks. Typically they try to reduce the power consumption with each generation.They are looking at 35 watts for notebooks and for ultrabooks, they are aiming down for13 watts. Tablets will be 10 watts or less,” he said.
Intel is pushing that the sweet spot is no longer the notebook, said McGregor. “They have migrated down. It used to be the desktop. Then it became the notebook, especially when Centrino came out. Now they are focusing on the ultrabook, even if it?s not selling well. Like it or not, that is the evolution of the PC. They need to come down on price but ultrabooks will be the preferred form factor,” he said.
Intel is expected to introduce a second wave of Haswell generation processors late in the year, while the Ivy Bridge processors will remain on the market for at least a few more years.