Intel Core 2 Duo chips launch; Eight-core Xeon systems this year

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Intel will officially launch its Core 2 Duo processors jointly on Thursday. Conroe, for desktops, and Merom, for laptops, are 64-bit processors that are both expected to find their way into future Mac systems.

Both processors will launch in single-socket configurations, which means that multiple processor Core 2 Duo configurations, which will drive systems with four cores or more, will not be available initially. It’s not clear when Intel plans to release multiple socket versions of the Core 2 Duo processors.

The Mac Pro, Apple’s Intel-based Power Mac G5 successor that will launch early next month at the company’s Worldwide Developers Conference, is accordingly expected to pack Intel’s new server-class dual-core Xeon, at least at the highest-end configurations. The processor, code-named Woodcrest, is currently available in dual-socket configurations.

Eight-core Xeon systems this year

Intel sources tell Think Secret that a quad-socket version of Woodcrest, which would pack eight processor cores into a single system, is slated for release in the fourth quarter of this year, around the same time Intel debuts its first quad-core processor, Kentsfield.

Whether any of these extremely high-end chip configurations will make their way into Apple’s offerings is unclear. Apple debuted its first four-core system with the dual processor, dual-core 2.5GHz Power Mac G5 in October 2005. To date, however, few applications have been able to effectively take advantage of the extra processing power, although Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard is expected to make better use of multiple cores. Leopard will be unveiled publicly at WWDC, and copies of a developer preview are currently slated to be made available to attendees, sources report.

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