I posted a news item the other day
regarding a source "close" to Intel talking about Intel putting unusual pressure
on third party motherboard manufacturers, and not reimbursing the OEMs that were early
adopters of the i820 chipset. I can say that I also have a **very** good contact who
says that a major motherboard manufacturer has an Athlon board, but is undecided as to
whether to market it under their name or not due (presumably) to pressure from
Intel. I have no contacts at the major OEMs so no information there regarding the
rumors that were flying about. (If you'd like to be my contact, feel free to send me
mail, the address is firstname.lastname@example.org ;) )
Anyway, in addition to those two juicy bits, I also got a very interesting piece of Intel propoganda. Now, I obviously can't post the whole thing here, but what I can do is synopsize what it is, and what I got out of it. First off, many thanks to my unnamed source, without whom none of us would know any of this. So let's all hoist a beer to him/her next time we're out drinkin' alright?
Now I know what you're all thinkin' out there..."Oh no, Sheneil's gone all Tom on us... she's got some hyped up BS & believes in the Illuminati conspiracy". Well, not so. What I'm saying IS backed up by documentation, and if you think about it for a moment it sounds perfectly logical. What am I talking about here? I'm talking about AMD and Intel, or more specifically Athlon and Intel's fear.
Intel is afraid of the Athlon. There, I said it... it's out in the open. You're all shocked right? Probably not, this is probably something that you all expected. You've read the reviews, you've read the Athlon CPU specs, some of you have even gone out and purchased Athlon systems (or at least lusted after them). We (the geek community) have for the most part turned in our long-standing admiration for the previous FPU king and moved over to AMD. If you folks are like me (and I'm assuming for the most part that's true), you don't really care who makes your CPU, as long as it runs your applications fast, and at a price that means we don't have to sell internal organs to buy parts. Well, Intel realizes this too. Regardless of the oops that was the introduction of the i820 chipset and the forcing down our throats of RAMBUS, Intel knows there's a big market out there of people who just want to buy the fastest thing on the planet, and to hell with everything else. Well, currently they're not the fastest performance-wise and for the first time in a long time they're not shipping the fastest CPU on the market. You see, there's a whole machismo thing that goes on between AMD and Intel. It's all about who has the biggest number on the market at one time. You'll notice that in the past, Intel would release a 600MHz part, and AMD soon followed with a 600MHz part of their own. Well, for the longest time that's how it's been. Intel ahead of AMD. Now that's all changed. AMD is shipping a 700MHz CPU. Intel is now shipping a 733... but there's two problems there: 1) According to a C't magazine article (referenced at The Register) there seem to be bugs in the 733 CPU. Not good. 2) The 733 is designed for the i820, which has been delayed 1 to 3 months. Again, not good. So Intel turns to their next product, Coppermine. Interesting name isn't it? COPPERmine... wow, we think, it must feature that cool new technology: copper interconnects. Well, it doesn't... lucky choice of a code name? Don't think so, IMHO that one was well planned.
So what did I get you ask? It's a K7 response kit dated Sept. 1999. That's right, a mop-up kit to tell their OEMs and important people (like BIG investors and stuff) why they shouldn't worry about this Athlon thing. What's in it? To tell you the truth, mostly fluff. Standard PR about how Intel has proven that they can respond to the market. Case in point: the Celeron CPU. Basically, here they're taking credit (and bragging) about the fact that AMD was beating them senseless in marketshare on the low-end. Voila! Intel rips the L2 cache off some Pentium II 266 and 300 MHz CPUs, throws them out on the market at a low cost and starts taking a beating about the performance of these CPUs with no L2 cache. At the time they couldn't redesign the Celeron fast enough, now they're bragging about it. Here's another bit of PR fluff: the response kit talks about "no name recognition for the new Athlon" name. Hmm... Intel is talking about this? Intel... the company that just renamed the Merced to Itanium? The company that has registered Opteon.com? (Thanks for the scoop on that one Ding A Ling) They're saying that Athlon is an unknown name, ok... I can give them half-a-point on that one, but seriously is that really anything that AMD has to worry about? I think not, what with actions speaking louder than words and all.
Other high points of the kit are Intel saying that 3DNow! only has optimizations for gaming, and that SSE is far superior because it "enhances the Internet experience". This, of course, is Intel's current advertising strategy so it's understandable that they'd bring up this point (no matter how stupid it is). Whenever I hear Intel talk about their WebOutfitters service and how it's only for Intel Pentium III owners, I can't help but think... well, good. It's not like it offers much of anything that I can't get somewhere else. But to continue to quote the document regarding 3DNow!, "No Internet focus or compatibility with the hundreds of SSE web sites, plug-ins and applications." Hundreds of sites? Can anyone name one site other than WebOutfitters itself? We're talking an SSE only or SSE enabled site.
Allow me to just hit on the remaining high points here in succession:
Interesting thing about this document is that throughout the whole thing, Intel never disputes that the Athlon is a superior product, all they point out is how AMD "made Questionable Performance claims" on previous benchmarks. They follow this statement with some of the K6-2 benchmarks that we saw back when the K6-2 first came out. They even go so far as to include their own incredulous commentary "does anyone believe that an AMD K6-2 300 beats an Intel Pentium II 450?" They do have a point, but then again we had independent benchmarks just the other day saying that a K6-III beats a Xeon in a server benchmark.
The document consists of 32 more pages of stuff like you've read here. The gist being that AMD has a long road ahead of them, even though they have the performance lead over Intel now. Of course, AMD's future is fraught with danger and any misstep by them could put them back in the catch-up position behind Intel. The interesting thing is that Intel is actually acknowledging that AMD is competition. The total lack of benchmarks of the Athlon vs. the Pentium III in this guide shows this. If the Athlon weren't anything to worry about do you think Intel would have put out a K7 response guide? Now, I'm not anti-Intel... far from it in fact, this article is written on an ABIT BP6 dual Celeron 366 overclocked to 550 rig. I'm a capitalist and believe strongly that competition is a good thing. If it weren't for AMD and Intel competing with each other, we'd all still be running 486 CPUs and thinking that we're the top of the heap. I want to take a moment here to wish both Intel and AMD luck in the CPU race, for in the end we, the users, are the ones who win when two titans square off against each other. Allow me to leave you with what I find to be the most interesting quote of the whole document..."The Intel Pentium III Processor is More Than Just a Processor." Words to live by. ;-)