The new 45 nm chips are still fresh off the production line, but Intel is already forging ahead on the next manufacturing processing: 32 nm.
The company announced this week that it has finished the development phase of the process and should start producing chips by the fourth quarter of next year.
The move offers significant benefits for OEMs and systems designers in that the smaller process, barely 1 billionth of a meter, can improve performance and lower energy consumption-two things that are in constant demand. The drawback, however, is that it requires users to make another significant investment in a new technology-unlike AMD's recent upgrade to the 45 nm Shanghai processors, which can be installed in current systems with little more than a BIOS update.
The new process will be codenamed Westmere and will be based on the Core i7 microarchitecture. The process will mark the introduction of the immersion lithography method that uses a liquid film to trace circuit patterns on the silicon.
Meanwhile, IBM, AMD and FreeScale Semiconductor are already at work on a 22 nm process.