At yesterday's quad-core Opteron launch here in Barcelona, AMD outlined a grander plan for the future and gave us an insight into its process technology.

Introducing the chip formerly codenamed Barcelona, Dirk Meyer, AMD's president and chief operating officer, outlined his plans for the company to "deliver relevant, differentiated innovation" that will control "all the screens in your life".

Of course, Meyer's vision for AMD no longer just involves the PC; the company's acquisition of ATI has broadened its focus. Meyer referred to the company as "the new AMD" since the purchase. The tie-up will ultimately bear fruit with the 2009 advent of Fusion, a combined GPU and CPU.

AMD can't hide its glee at beating Intel to the "native" quad-core punch. Alberto Macchi, corporate vice president, sales and marketing at AMD Europe, said Barcelona is the first of our "next generation of processors".

"Building Barcelona"

The theme continued this morning at a pre-breakfast meeting where AMD exec David Greenlaw gave us an insight into "Building Barcelona" and how process technology can help achieve the company's aims. Greenlaw's job title is somewhat convoluted - director of process integration - but his presentation managed to strangely fascinate.

Greenlaw's brief was to tell us how 600 million transistors can fit on a single processor die. While he didn't quite fully let us into the secret, he did talk of the limitations of the technology.

"Every wafer begins as a blank wafer and goes through several hundred steps," enthused Greenlaw, explaining that the company is taking less time to produce mature yields from its manufacturing process.

The long-awaited 45nm pilot lines are now running inside AMD's Dresden plant, which fully converted to the 65nm process last year. The company has been working with IBM to refine its processes and is also partnering with it over 45nm, which should be fully rolled out by this time next year. Greenlaw cited a 20 per cent performance improvement from refining the process, using strained silicon and ultra-low k dialectics.

What's more, Greenlaw says that 32nm process technology will be in place by 2010, with a move to a 22nm process slated for 2011. He clearly knows his party piece, too. If the thickness of a human hair is 60,000nm, that makes a 4nm transistor gate seem rather small indeed. "We're running out of atoms to work with," he said.