A High-Five For High-K Reinvented Transistors

Today marks a major milestone: the one-year anniversary of shipping the world’s first ever Intel processors manufactured on our 45 nanometer process–based on an entirely new ‘high-k metal gate’ transistor formula.

And what a year it has been for this manufacturing and uniquely-flavored transistor combo

Intel Core i7 Processor Wafer

Intel’s transistor formula infuses the element Hafnium with Silicon and other ingredients to reduce the electricity leakage that comes from the tens of millions of transistors inside our processors that constantly turn on and off every time you use your computer. The magnitude of the High-K breakthrough can’t be overstated. The basic material science of the transistor has been vastly refined over the 40+ years of Moore’s law. However, the basics –a sandwich of Silicon, Silicon Dioxide as an insulate and amorphous Silicon as a Gate — has remained the same for the integrated semiconductor.

With some of the world’s most sophisticated factories now producing these chips, our reinvented transistors and manufacturing prowess have helped Intel usher in an entire generation of energy efficient products that allow us to progress toward a vision I laid out at Spring IDF’08, in my keynote from Miliwatts to Petaflops (mW to PF). Our High-K, Intel architecture products will span from the very biggest machines on the planets, to the smallest most power efficient – yet performance capable, mobile products in your pocket.

Beginning at the top, we have processors for our high-end servers, including shipping the world’s first ever six-core processor. Yes, that’s six Intel processing engines in one Xeon 7400 product. Further, our quad-core products have set records in both performance and energy efficient for rapidly growing segments like high-density blade servers.

45nm Intel Xeon 7400 processor die

As laptops surpass desktops in popularity, Intel introduced High-K versions of the Centrino 2 processor technology that offers better battery life, and high-definition video playback capability. We also introduced the world’s first four-core processor for notebooks.

You can never be too thin or light either, right? With some bright R&D thinking from our labs, Intel was able to shrink a mobile processor and related chipset more than 60% to be the foundation of the ultra-cool and skinny laptops from the likes of Apple and Lenovo. Adding in another Intel and industry breakthrough — the Solid State Drive — I carry one of these machines and love it.

Of course, continuing our mW to PF progression, we launched Atom processor family.

Silverthorne Package.jpg

While we were of course expecting it to succeed, even we were a bit amazed by the amount of interest this product has garnered. In particular, Atom is creating new category of platforms. The two new fully-loaded Internet device opportunities are: Netbooks and Mobile Internet Devices, or “MIDs”. These chips are so small that about four of them can be produced for every one Intel Core processor. Thousands of hardware, software, and service providers are bringing products to market as we speak, with some cool examples here and here.

Of course, Atom being a small, fully compatible Intel core has created another opportunity, IA system on chips (SoCs). IA-SOCs that will take advantage of our manufacturing innovations in the coming weeks and years. Opportunities also abound in the ‘embedded’ computing market, as companies look to add the Internet connectivity to automobiles, vending machines, security equipment, digital displays, robotics, and much more.

There are plans for Intel, Yahoo, and others to add Internet-ready Intel chips for broad range of Consumer Electronics devices. In particular, High Definition TVs and an easier TV/web experience that will embrace these innovations over time. And with a greater than 10X energy efficiency improvement expected for our next MIDs, perhaps cell phones will become even smarter with a fast and uninhibited Internet connection.

What’s next? In the coming weeks we will add another 45nm factory to our network, and unveil the Core i7 processor (codenamed Nehalem) that ultimately will span from two to eight cores, plus add in Hyper-threading technology and innovative turbo-mode features. In late’09 we will quickly begin the transition to a 32nm manufacturing process–delivering even more energy efficiency and integration, and keeping Intel’s tick-tock development model alive and well.

Add in a high-speed wireless broadband network like WiMAX, and you can see a massive shift to a more mobile Internet with a variety of high-performing, Internet-savvy Intel-based computers and devices. Wow, what a year it has been. Of course, we might just have a few cool things planned for ’09 as well. I look forward to telling you about them!

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