Sandy Bridge is about fast, integrated graphics, studio-class security, massive processing power and hard coded Windows support

5 January 2011 by Steve Blum
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Judging from Intel’s press conference, their new Sandy Bridge platform – from now on known as the 2nd Generation Intel Core Processor Family – is focused on media and entertainment performance, driven by deep integration between hardware, operating systems, applications, content and networking.

 Mooly Eden shows his fast chips,
 funny hat and cute accent
The headline features are the on-board graphic and media processing capabilities, the 32 nanometer architecture delivering 1.16 billion transistors on a chip and integrated, studio-satisfying content security functionality.

“It’s about the visual experience, the tag line for the product is visually smart”, is how CEO Paul Otellini summed it up.

“People used to communicate with text, today they communicate with images and video,” said Mooly Eden, head of Intel’s PC client group. “It’s all about consumption and creation of digital content”.

The marquee demonstrations involved very fast graphics processing and rendering, and of course intensive gaming applications.

Microsoft is a close member of the new processor family. Windows 7 support is built into the chip, and they are already working on preparing for integrated Windows 8 support in a couple of years. More telling, when Otellini put a very long list of Sandy Bridge partners up on the screen, Apple was nowhere to be found.

It’s an impressive new architecture that will have some far reaching effects, particularly on content distribution. One question is whether the integrated content security system will impact a user’s ability to view pirated videos. It’s one thing to protect what studios distribute themselves, it’s another to try to control what users do otherwise with their computers. But just making content producers happy is a huge step forward, and if it takes off Intel will be positioned to have a controlling position in media distribution.

The new architecture does support a mobile product platform for laptop computers, but mobility was not emphasized. In fact, Otellini opened the press conference by saying that Intel was going to delay any announcements regarding smart phone chips until the Barcelona show next month. Which is an announcement of sorts.

Computer makers are starting to roll out their Sandy Bridge products now, in some cases stepping on top of launches made yesterday before Intel gave the official benediction. These latest announcements are focused on high performance desktops. So far, no tablets or other mobility devices have appeared. But it could come this evening when Micosoft CEO Steve Balmer gives a keynote address.