Intel is ready to launch its dual-core Xeon.

Invitations sent out by Intel and HP point to a 10 October launch date. HP will announce new dual-core ProLiant servers while at the same time Intel Japan has planned an 11 October celebration for dual-core server and workstation chips.

Earlier this week, Dell provided a preview of its dual-core systems. It said the systems would ship in the first half of October but declined to provide any other details about the Xeon chips that would ship with those systems. Also, IBM announced three-entry level servers this week that will be available with dual-core chips by the middle of October.

The launch would mark the end of a significant gap in performance between Intel's single-core Xeon processors and AMD's dual-core Opteron. As it did with the transition to 64-bit technology, AMD introduced a new design feature - multi-core technology - several months ahead of the world's largest chip maker.

During 2004 - a bad year for Intel by anyone's standards - the company was forced to release a 64-bit version of Xeon to match AMD's initial success with Opteron. It also had to quickly overhaul its processor design strategies in hopes of getting dual-core chips for desktops and servers out in time with AMD's plans.

Intel chose to release dual-core chips for desktops first in part because it was simply easier to quickly validate dual-core chips for desktops, said Jonathan Douglas, a principal engineer in Intel's Digital Enterprise Group, at a chip conference in August. Server chips require more testing and validation before they can be released, and Intel needed to make sure it got the server products right, he said. Intel did release a version of its dual-core Pentium D processor - really a desktop chip - for low-end one-socket servers in July.

The company's original plan was to release Bensley, a dual-core version of Xeon, as its first dual-core server processor in the first quarter of 2006. Bensley is still on track for the first quarter, but Intel was able to move up the launch date for Paxville, a dual-core chip for both two-socket and four-socket servers, in time for an October launch.

Some analysts believe Intel's dual-core chips will still be hobbled by their front-side bus design, but independent reviews and benchmarks will deliver the verdict. Intel uses an external memory bus to connect the processor to memory, while AMD integrates that function directly onto the chip, which improves performance.