Intel Improves Dual-core Chip to Protect its Laptop Share

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Intel Corp. launched a dual-core notebook chip for high-end users on Monday, continuing an effort to defend its share of the fast-growing notebook PC market against Advanced Micro Devices Inc. (AMD).

Intel is selling the new Core 2 Extreme X7800 processor to PC vendors now, and says it will reach store shelves within two weeks, boosting performance for the hard-core gamers and digital artists who now use notebooks powered by Intel's Core Duo T2600.

The company encouraged vendors to push even faster performance by opening the chip's speed protection locks, allowing them to overclock the processor for even faster operation. Some video game fans seek top performance by running chips beyond their rated speed limits on desktop PCs like Dell Inc.'s XPS 720 series. The practice is less common on notebook PCs, which are usually optimized for the best battery endurance.

By concentrating on notebooks, Intel is aiming at the sweet spot of the PC market. Vendors have seen sparse growth in desktop PC shipments in recent years, increasing by only single-digit percentages in 2005, 2006 and forecasts for 2007. But demand for notebooks in soaring, with global notebook shipments showing increases of 35.9 percent in 2005, 28.4 percent in 2006 and an estimated 25.3 percent in 2007, according to the analyst firm iSuppli Corp.

In May, Intel made another effort to push sales of its mobile chips by launching its Santa Rosa bundle of mobile processors and chipsets, an upgrade to its popular Centrino platform. AMD quickly responded by announcing later that month that it would use a new mobile processor called "Griffin" as the basis of a collection of processors and chipsets code-named Puma, expected to reach markets in the middle of 2008.

Intel now hopes to regain the initiative by expanding its Core 2 Extreme brand from high-end desktops to high-end notebooks. It is selling the 2.6 GHz Core 2 Extreme X7800 notebook chip for $851.

Also on Monday, Intel announced five new desktop chips, led by the quad-core, 3.0 GHz Core 2 Extreme QX6850, intended for game developers, and the 2.66 GHz Core 2 Quad Q6700. Intel is selling those two chips for US$999 and $530, respectively, priced in 1,000-unit quantities.

Intel's new dual-core chips are all in the Core 2 Duo family, including the 3.0 GHz E6850, for $266, the 2.66 GHz E6750, for $183, and the 2.33 GHz E6550, for $163. The company is shipping all the chips now, and expects vendors to bring them to markets in two weeks.

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