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Some time ago we indulged in a little experiment trying to predict the future behavior of Intel Corporation in our “Where Going, Intel?” article. We had just bare facts and our razor-sharp common sense at our disposal and these were enough to forecast with a certain degree of accuracy the way of the semiconductor giant. Well, no corporation, even the biggest one, will ever live long in this cruel market environment without listening to common sense.

Of course, this method lacks precision when we don’t have any information or facts at all, but we may well imagine the directions of the main blows knowing the style of the corporation. We can surmise the general direction it is going to take in the near future. We can weigh up the company’s current products with all their pros and contras and suggest the most probable development of the situation. Anyway, it is the future that’s the final judge. It tells us what has been wrong or right in our half-analytical and half-intuitive suppositions. That’s the fate of all Cassandras, especially the ones from the IT industry.

The Good of Being Imaginative

So here are the events we found probable to occur with respect to Intel in our previous article:

  1. The thought that the question of “64 bits” wouldn’t receive a clear answer until the last moment. Well, that’s exactly what we saw. Only the top managers of Intel Corp. knew about the variant chosen, while rank employees (as well as the press and the company’s partners) had no idea about whether Intel would support the 64 bits in desktop processors and if yes, which instruction set? Now the situation has been clarified – the corporation listened to common sense and chose the AMD64 set (although gave it another name) – but back then, it was the main intrigue. By the way, we pointed at this variant as the most probable in our previous article.
  2. The new 90nm Prescott core. The rumors about its appearing in February were right. The availability of these processors is questionable (especially, with regard to topmost models). The release was a kind of “paper” one. Today, some time after the announcement, we don’t see an abundance of top-end Prescott-core processors, although testers did receive some samples. The performance didn’t go up, but rather dropped down (or remained at the same level, if you wish). The new core doesn’t outperform the hi-end Pentium 4 Extreme Edition. This is all like we supposed.
  3. We also put forth a supposition that the main battle would be fought at an adjacent field. And really, the announcement of new Pentium 4 platforms is rescheduled from Q3 to the end of Q2, evidently because of some heroic advances in the development process. We’re now waiting for the LGA755 socket and the PCI Express bus. Intel people are talking about the advantages of the new bus (in the PCI Express x16 variant) for graphics, but the graphics bus will first be working in the half-duplex mode and all dainties will be postponed for the next generation of chipsets. Moreover, I venture a supposition that Intel must promote the transition to the PCI Express x16 and oppose to installation of the AGP 8x slot in new systems, although, as practice suggests, we haven’t seen any performance breakthroughs from the AGP 4x – 8x transition either. That’s not all. The heads of Intel have reminded us recently that it is necessary (I wonder – for who?) to switch to the new memory standard, DDR2, which will bring you the fantastic performance you’re dreaming of. Memory manufacturers have started reporting about certification of their new memory modules with Intel, slurring over the price. Even most optimistic forecasts say that DDR2 is going to cost twice as much as DDR, without giving any bandwidth advantages and with higher latencies. DDR2 has only one potential advantage over DDR – it is expected to conquer higher frequencies in the future. Bingo! That’s exactly what we’ve been waiting for – the new bus and the new memory are nothing much by themselves, but they are strong trumps in the battle of the marketing departments. Memory is even more important for Intel as it is harder for AMD to implement DDR2 support into its Athlon 64 (the memory controller is integrated into this processor, as you know).
  4. We promised that the Prescott wouldn’t be very widespread for the Socket 478. You can now take a look at Intel’s roadmap: the 3.6GHz model will be available for the Socket LGA755 only.

As you see, there are enough of coincidences. We are quite satisfied and pleased with the accuracy of our fortune-telling and are going to take to it with more vigor. Our last article was mostly concerned with Intel’s possible moves and actions. Now we’ll try to see the future of AMD in our magic mirror.

Let me remind you once again, that we don’t have any insider information. This article only contains our own guesses and opinions about the probable course of future events.

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