Is multi-core the new MHz myth?

How many cores do we really need?

6. Multi-core is perfect for mobile use

Lower operating frequencies and increased instruction throughput per clock cycle is the key to balancing performance with power efficiency for mobile computing devices. And that's exactly what multi-core delivers by shifting the emphasis away from sky high frequencies and towards performance per Watt.

7. Even games consoles have gone multi-core

Games have traditionally been one of the hardest application types to code for multi-core hardware platforms. But now Microsoft's Xbox 360 console sports a triple-core chip while the Cell processor in the Sony PlayStation 3 packs no less than seven floating point cores to go along with its heavy duty PowerPC core. The arrival of these multi-core consoles leaves game developers with no choice. Efficient multi-threaded code is essential for making the most of them.

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8. The Beast of Redmond is backing multi-core

That's right, Microsoft has its multi-core boots on. According to reports, Microsoft has been busily snapping up the best minds in parallel computing from the supercomputing industry and from academia. Word is Windows 7, the follow operating system to Vista, will major on multi-core support and improved multi-thread management.

Indeed, according to Microsoft's main multi-threading man, Craig Mundie, the arrival of massively multi-core chips will enable a whole new paradigm in personal computing. Mundie envisages a future in which PCs interpret emails, "look at whether I've ever corresponded with these people, determine the semantic context and draft three possible replies." Scary stuff and only possible with serious processing power.

9. Build it and they will come

You can debate their merits for current applications. But a large installed base of multi-core CPUs is essential to encourage software developers to tackle paralleling coding challenges. It simply doesn't make business sense to invest in new software technology unless compatible hardware exists in significant numbers. AMD and Intel are now cranking out millions of multi-core chips. And developers are increasingly stepping up to the challenge.

But what about the challenges that multi-core processors present? For that you'll need to read part two.