Intel is characteristically mum on its mobile plans for 2009, but it's safe to assume that the first half of the year will bring new mobile processors built on the Nehalem microarchitecture. At least one site claims that Nehalem mobile CPUs will come in two flavors: a quad-core version (code-named Clarksfield) and a dual-core version (code-named Auburnsdale) that incorporates an on-die GPU.
Given the company's release pattern, we expect the new mobile chip to be followed within a few months by a new mobile platform. The sixth generation of Centrino is code-named Calpella and will reportedly take full advantage of Intel's QuickPath Interconnect technology, though few other details are known at this time.
Core density is not the only change AMD has on the horizon, however. By the end of 2009 we expect to see the first iterations of AMD's Fusion design, which will incorporate the graphics processing core directly into the same silicon as the CPU itself. We do not expect this change will bring about the end of the graphics card market as it exists today. But as the only vendor able to tap into the knowledge of design teams seasoned in both CPU and performance GPU design--and no, we don't count Intel's integrated graphics chip as a "performance" part--AMD's Fusion core may be unique in its ability to provide powerful graphics and general processing power in a newly efficient package.
Intel's plans for 2009 involve extending and shrinking its Nehalem design, as well as extending its reach into your PC overall. 2009 is a "tick" year, which means that Intel will shrink the 45-nanometer Nehalem core down to a 32nm manufacturing process, the result of which is code-named Westmere. Before that happens, though, Intel has said that it may ship an eight core-native version of Nehalem in early 2009, and it will likely be the first consumer desktop chip vendor to offer such a CPU. This slide from an Nvidia presentation shows the apparent benefit of upgrading to a second Nvidia graphics card, as compared with upgrading to a faster Intel quad-core processor.
And while this article is supposed to be about CPUs, we'd be remiss if we didn't mention Intel's Larrabee graphics card plans. Rather than an integrated chip design, Larrabee is the code-name of a discrete graphics card set to debut in late 2009. That's right--Intel plans to get back in the 3D card game. This is not the melding of the CPU and the GPU that AMD has in mind for its Fusion (although it's certainly possible that Intel could go that route), but rather it's a shot at Nvidia, whose CUDA design has brought a new level of programmability to high-end 3D cards meant for professional 3D imaging. Because that programmability essentially off-loads CPU cycles to the 3D card, if your Nvidia-made 3D card is doing a lot of that work, you might not need to spend as much on that fast Intel processor. And as depicted in the screenshot above, this fight over who gets to do your processing work has already begun.