A few days ago, Intel officially launched its first dual core processors amid a flurry of press, both positive and negative. The new processors are essentially two Prescott cores grafted together on a single die, and have been heavily criticized by some for not offering any immediate, tangible performance increase.
Itís certainly true. In a single-threaded application, which most of todayís are, a dual core processor offers no benefit over a single core. Even with two or more applications running, they have to be much more taxing than web-surfing, e-mailing and DVD-watching for a dual core processor to show any real improvement. This has more than a few in the enthusiast community up in arms. They claim that this is just another attempt by the corporate Goliath to pawn off its over-heated and under-achieving Prescott, and that with no immediate and tangible benefit, Intelís misguided attempts to steer the market will be met with consumer rejection.
We respectfully disagree. A processorís benchmark performance and its success in the market are not as closely related as you might think. Dual core is going to gain wide acceptance, and gain it fast, for one very simple reason Ė price. Intel has been very upfront about its plans to price its dual core parts the same as single core parts. For the average consumer, this stands to look very compelling, even if the price parity isnít exact. If the average consumer has to choose between two 3.2 GHz cores versus just one 3.6 GHz core for the same price, heíll snatch up the dual core faster than you can say Craig Barrett.
In fact, Intel frequently uses its market dominance to force the acceptance of new technologies, sometimes even before those technologies are viewed as ready to evolve into the market naturally. There are always a few naysayers when the push begins, claiming that the technology isnít ready, but not surprisingly, you donít seem to hear much from them a year or two down the road when the technology is in every machine sold. Sure, in the past, some of Intelís attempts to impose technologies have failed Ė RDRAM comes to mind. But the one glaring difference is that in virtually all of these failed cases, the technology Intel has pushed has been significantly more expensive. When Intel exercises its considerable corporate girth to price a new technology on par with the status quo, the attempt rarely fails.
And so the dual core journey begins. To the ridicule and lampooning of nerds everywhere, Intel will sell dual core processors that arenít any faster in single-threaded applications (and initially will take a monetary hit, earning substantially less profit on each one), all for the sake of turning the market down the dual core road. But in two years, you wonít hear them laughing anymore. Especially when they find that Intel remains comfortably in the position from which it has achieved such great success in the past Ė the driverís seat.