Intel's fears of 64-bit AMD-based gaming PCs seem to have driven the company to release a new CPU product. This week, the company unexpectedly announced the Intel Pentium 4 Extreme Edition microprocessor, which the company says will usher in a new era of high-performance online gaming. The Pentium 4 Extreme Edition runs at 3.2GHz and includes a whopping 2MB of L3 cache in addition to the 512KB of L2 cache found in standard Pentium 4 CPUs. And, like other 3.2GHz Pentium 4 chips, the Pentium 4 Extreme Edition features Intel's Hyper-Threading Technology, which lets the CPU divide tasks among different software jobs more efficiently, often providing the performance of dual processors.
   "The industry has made great progress toward developing interoperability guidelines as well as innovative products and services that are helping make the digital home a reality for consumers," said Louis J. Burns, vice president and general manager of Intel's Desktop Platforms Group, during his keynote address yesterday at the Intel Developer Forum (IDF) in San Jose, California. "The next step in the digital home is enabling the availability of premium content on the home network, giving consumers access to the type of compelling content they want to enjoy. We're committed to continue to work with the consumer electronics, music, and film industries to deliver the capability which, in turn, will create new business opportunities for all."
   Intel also announced other products that should appeal to high-end gamers and computer power users, such as Gateway's upcoming LCD Media Center, an all-in-one Media Center PC with an integrated LCD display. Intel's Pentium 4 Extreme Edition chip drives the LCD Media Center PC, which is powerful enough to record TV shows in the background while the user plays 3-D video games. Today's PCs are incapable of performing two such high-bandwidth tasks simultaneously, Intel says.
   In addition, the company unveiled the Intel 815 Digital Set Top Box Reference Design, a platform for decoding video-on-demand over broadband connections. Intel designed the motherboard for third-party developers who want to create hardware for piping high-quality video streams over IP connections. Finally, the company revealed some upcoming PC technologies, such as PCI Express x16 graphics--an upcoming graphics card standard--and the Balanced Technology Extended (BTX--formerly code-named Big Water) interface specification, which PC makers can use to design next-generation PC hardware. Intel says that BTX will succeed today's ATX motherboard specification for PC design and provide better thermal management, system size and shape, acoustics, and performance.