Intel has unveiled a prototype chip that packs 48 separate processing cores on to a chunk of silicon the size of a postage stamp.
The Single-chip Cloud Computer (SCC), as it is known, contains 1.3 billion transistors, the tiny on-off switches that underpin chip technology.
Each processing core could, in theory, run a separate operating system.
Currently, top-end chips for desktop computers typically contain four separate processors.
Intel and rival AMD will both launch new six-core devices in 2010, allowing computers to simultaneously tackle a number of complex tasks, such as processing graphics.
The chip has won the “cloud” name because it brings together the computing resources typically filling several racks in a data centre.
The SCC is made up of 24 “tiles” each one of which is effectively a dual-core processor.
The chip maker said the research that had gone into the chip suggests that it could, eventually, cram 100 cores onto a single piece of silicon.
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