Intel Readies 32-Nanometer CPUs for 4Q 2009

Well, that didn't take long! Soon after AMD started launching its first 45-nanometer chips into the market, the company's Phenom II CPUs, Intel has announced plans to push into an industry-first 32-nanometer architecture. According to Intel CEO Paul Otellini, the company is planning a massive financial push--approximately $2 billion in new U.S. manufacturing investments over the next two years--to begin bringing 32-nanometer Westmere chips into servers, desktop, and notebook PCs as early as September of this year.

"We recognize risk-taking is not a move that is common at the moment," said Intel Executive Vice-President Sean Maloney in an interview with BusinessWeek. "But when you can build faster, cheaper, simpler, more attractive, and more compelling devices, it's a safer bet than you'd imagine."

The move comes as a bit of a surprise for industry analysts. While Intel's roadmap is no secret, the company was expected to delay its launch date for new 32-nanometer chips as a result of the weakening decline for computers during the current economic crunch.

According to Intel, Westmere processors will launch in two- and six-core variants: Clarkdale and Gulftown, respectively. Both processors will feature an integrated graphics controller, a first for Intel, as well as the standard integrated memory controller that's being carried over from the company's 45-nanometer Nehalem processors. Clarkdale processors are expected to ship in the fourth quarter of 2009 alongside their mobile variants, codenamed "Arrandale." Expect to see the six-core Gulftown processors in 2010.

What remains to be seen is how the news will affect already beleagured AMD, who came into 2009 sitting on a $1.6 billion loss. Phenom II processors weren't designed to compete with Intel's top-notch 45-nanometer Nehalem chips. How will the company respond to Intel's 32-nanometer switch when it's just now getting its 45-nanometer production into line? When two- and six-core Westmere processors begin taking over the high end of the CPU charts, bumping the best of the 45-nanometer chips into striking distance of Phenom II prices . . . Well, it's going to be quite a showdown come September.

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