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Intel Corp. Wants to Build a "Revolutionary" Processor Core

By Ashraf Eassa – Apr 25, 2018 at 5:18PM

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Say hello to Intel's Ocean Cove processor core.

In a recent article, I argued that chip giant Intel Corp. (INTC -0.90%) should double down on its investments in developing the core intellectual properties that power its chips. These intellectual properties, or IPs, include CPU cores, graphics cores, dedicated workload accelerators, and much more. 

Although all of these IPs are important to Intel's future products, the crown jewels of the company's technology portfolio are its processor cores. The performance and power efficiency of the company's processor cores have the largest influence on the competitiveness of Intel's products across its business units and, in particular, in its two largest segments: personal computer processors and data center processors. 

Intel Core processor badges.

Image source: Intel.

According to job listings on the company's website, Intel seems to be ramping up hiring for a major new processor core project, known as "Ocean Cove." Let's dive into the details. 

What is Ocean Cove?

Per Intel's job listing, Ocean Cove is the name of a "next generation core design." 

The processor core, the listing says, is intended to be a "revolutionary microprocessor core to power the next decade of computing and create experiences we have yet to dream up." 

Intel goes on to say that it's looking for "micro-architecture, logic design and high-speed circuit design talent to help us reinvent the Core IP."

Over the years, Intel has made relatively incremental improvements to its processor cores -- in a good year, the company would deliver about a 10% improvement in performance at the same frequency; in a bad year, we're lucky to see a 5% improvement. 

Based on Intel's wording here -- namely that it wants to make a "revolutionary" core and to "reinvent the Core IP" -- I think the company plans a huge jump in performance and power efficiency with this new CPU core. 

Powering the future

You'll notice that Intel says that it wants to use this core to "power the next decade of computing." 

This doesn't mean that Intel will just build the new core and then keep it untouched for a decade -- it would quickly lose its luster, and Intel's competitive position in the marketplace would erode in just a few years. 

What it does mean, however, is that after Intel makes a huge leap with the introduction of Ocean Cove, it'll iterate on that design by making incremental improvements in performance and power efficiency to keep it fresh. 

Those incremental enhancements -- coupled with advancements in chip manufacturing technology, as well as improvements in the IPs that surround the processor cores -- should allow Intel to keep bringing fresh new products to the marketplace. 

Foolish takeaway

Intel's processor innovations over the last six years or so have been lukewarm at best. In my view, this has eroded its positioning in its core markets as competitors have improved the performance of their processors at a faster rate than Intel has.

The problem has been compounded by the fact that its manufacturing technology has led to delays in the introduction of improved processor technology, further hurting Intel's competitiveness. 

It seems, though, that Intel plans something big with the Ocean Cove processor core, and I'm really excited to see what kind of a performance and efficiency boost it can ultimately deliver. It'll be up to the company's manufacturing group now to ensure that whatever cool processor designs that Intel's engineers cook up can be manufactured and brought to market in a timely fashion.  

Ashraf Eassa owns shares of Intel. The Motley Fool recommends Intel. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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