Intel expects to ship its first four-core processor (code-named 'Clovertown') in early 2007, a senior executive declared last week.

Apple is presently using Intel's dual core chips in the first iterations of its Intel-based Macs: the MacBook Pro and iMac.

A report claims that Intel expects to sell 60 million dual-core chips this year - a quarter of total processor sales, according to chief technology officer Justin Rattner.

The report explains the four-core chips are destined for server systems.

As processor makers endeavour to deliver better performance without creating processors that demand large amounts of power and generate unsustainable heat levels, Rattner explained that he can see a day when a single chip will contain tens or hundreds of cores.