On Monday, Intel informed me that it was delivering dual-core versions of its Xeon server microprocessors dramatically ahead of schedule. Originally due in early 2006, the first dual-core, hyper-threaded Xeon and Xeon MP processors (codenamed Paxville) will soon ship, the company says. These 64-bit chips are designed for servers with four or eight processors.

"As they did with dual-core PC processors earlier this year, Intel engineers have executed exquisitely, and because of that we'll bring our dual-core Intel Xeon processor platforms to the marketplace well ahead of schedule," said Kirk Skaugen, the general manager of Intel's Server Platforms Group. Intel's Paxville processors offer over 60 percent performance boosts when compared to similar processors from the previous generation Xeon family.

A Paxville product version, aimed for dual processor servers and codenamed Paxville DP ("dual processor"), is targeted at early adopters and will come with a premium price tag. (This is similar to the strategy Intel employed with its dual-core desktop chips; the company first shipped an expensive version of its Pentium 4 Extreme Edition before releasing the mainstream dual-core Pentium D processor.) This chip will offer a 50 percent performance boost over previous generation Xeon processors used in dual processor servers, Intel says, but will run on previous-generation motherboards.

By the end of 2006, Intel expects to transition its entire microprocessor product line to dual- or multi-core versions. A dual core version of the Itanium is expected by late 2005.

At the Intel Developer Forum (IDF) on August 23, the microprocessor giant will announce its plans for switching its desktop processors over to a new architecture that is based on the widely successful Pentium M chip, which was originally designed for mobile computers. When combined with multiple processor cores and 64-bit capabilities, these chips will not only outperform today's Pentium 4 chips, but will also produce less heat and consume less energy.