Intel raises up the bar

At the recent Intel Developers Forum in San Jose, Calif., the company unveiled the Pentium IIII 2GHz processor, and the chip manufacturer had no problem in espousing what the announcement means to the industry.

“The P4 is the fastest thing on the planet”, said Louis Burns, vice-president and general manager of Intel’s desktop platform group. In the span of less than 18 months, the company has moved from the Pentium II 450 to 2GHz. He said that whatever platforms IT buys today are the same platforms they will continue to use until 2004.

And so as speeds continue to increase, the fundamental idea of Moore’s Law is again called into question. “Moore’s Law is very healthy (and) holding true for the next few years. After that, it’s hard to see. We expect 10GHz”. In an industry where it originally took 30 years to hit 1GHz, the projections made by Burns signifies that despite the current problems that exist in the hardware/software debate, the company is devoted to increasing speed.

Mark Margevicius agrees that while speed is ever increasing, he isn’t sure how necessary it is since in the PC space since most are still using technology from over a year ago. “We’ve been provided an automobile that can go 150mph but in terms of our actual usage we have limitations in our software applications and usage to set our speed limit at 60mph,” said the research analyst for Gartner in Cleveland, Ohio. Yet, Margevicius also said that while the demand may not be there, by no means should Intel stop developing.

He said that there really isn’t a demand for the P4, but what is more likely to emerge is a price point replacement model being adopted by most corporations. Customers today realize that Windows doesn’t perform any better on a P3 900MHz or a P4 at 1.5GHz. But he said those most likely to migrate first include application developers, engineers and CAD/CAM developers who will need additional speed. Ultimately, the replacement market is driving the demand for P4.

Margevicius agreed with Burn’s assessment that Moore’s Law won’t end for another five to seven years. He said that both Intel and AMD have said that there is still ample headroom in terms of capability. With regards to their competition, he said that this will now push AMD to compete in the corporate space.

Rob Enderle confirmed that those who will initially upgrade to the P4 are in specialized areas that will be required to do so.

“The performance segment…they always push technology. They tend to upgrade on an annual basis if not faster (and) this is for folks who are doing CAD, graphics work and multi-level financial analysis’, said the research fellow at Giga Information Group in Santa Clara, Calif. He said that the drive for performance is currently low, and coupled with the problems Windows XP is facing from both a price and demand perspective, it may hurt the demand for the P4.

Enderle also sided with Margevicius’ assessment of Moore’s Law, by saying that as far as being able to ramp the chip, vendors agree there is still headroom.

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