I'm sure you've noticed in the past year that Intel is working on something big, something that'll move them away from what they've always advocated as their driving force; the need to keep designing and manufacturing even faster processors. We’re about to see a fundamental shift in the way Intel approaches things and with that how the computer industry works, a change that will turn upside-down what has been the norm for twenty years. The emphasis will shift from speed and raw computing power to features, integration, and usability, or rather Intel will be looking at how to better integrate the computer into our daily lives.
Firstly, more speed is no longer required as it once was. Ten, or even five years ago, users were compelled to upgrade to the latest hardware in order to make the most of the newest game, office software, or latest version of Windows. Now, we essentially have users turning around and saying ‘No, what I have is fast enough.’ And they’re right. The hardware has become so powerful that users don’t absolutely need the latest and greatest, as they used to, when low-end, inexpensive, or dated components work just as well. It's pretty tough to sell faster parts to users who don't think they need them. The second, and perhaps more urgent reason for Intel to de-emphasize speed is illustrated somewhat alarmingly below.
The chart shows the percentage change in power dissipation when moving from one process technology generation to the next. For example, the first bar shows that when Intel migrated the Pentium II processor from 350nm to 250nm (at 300 MHz), power dissipation dropped by over 50%! Lower power dissipation and smaller transistors have allowed Intel to continue to ramp up speed, obeying Moore’s Law for well over 20 years. That all came to a rather alarming halt a few months ago, when Prescott was introduced. As can be seen from the chart, the jump to 90nm did not result in a decrease in power consumption, it actually resulted in a dramatic increase
, Prescott at 3.2 GHz consumes over 25% more power than Northwood did. Prescott is hemorrhaging current, and while some improvements will certainly be made, it is not unrealistic to say that we may be very near the end of clock speed increases as we have known them for the last 20 years.
So in addition to the fact that there’s less demand for following historic speed trends, it may no longer be possible to follow those patterns regardless, and that’s what makes Intel's pending new platform introduction so unique. For really the first time, Intel will introduce its latest platform by trumpeting features, value, usability, and ease of integration, with much less emphasis on speed. This is so much the case, in fact, that as of its introduction, Intel will no longer rate its desktop processors in terms of Megahertz, but with model numbers. The same kind of strategy AMD used to rate its processors but without referring to a certain performance index. In the next few pages we will give you a primer of what to expect from Intel in the next few weeks.