Intel Corp launched its much-heralded 3GHz Pentium 4 desktop processor this week and sought to raise the price floor at the top end of its desktop range.
The 3GHz part represents the desktop debut of Intel’s hyper-threading technology. Hyper-threading technology, which makes a single chip system look like a dual processor system to multi-threaded applications, will offer desktop users a 25% performance boost over a traditional chip at the same clock speed Intel claims.
Consumers are still unwilling to buy new PCs, and Intel is going all out to grab as much of the holiday buying season as it can with the November launch of the chip. OEMs already have 3GHz systems on sales.
Intel president and COO Paul Otellini, at a briefing earlier this week, said consumers increasingly wanted to carry out a number of highly processor intensive tasks at the same time, for example burning a CD while playing a graphics intensive game, and the combination of high clockspeed and hyper-threading the latest P4 offered would enable them to do this.
Similarly, he said, business users were running more and more background applications, for example security and virus packages, and giving them more power would enable them to do this without compromising productivity.
Corporations have resisted upgrading their PC installed bases since the mass upgrades ahead of the year 2000. Otellini said the average corporate desktop was a 500Mhz Pentium-based machine, and systems based on Intel’s latest chip would deliver a 6.4 times improvement in productivity, for example.
At the same time, Intel appears to be using its breaching of the 3GHz mark to harden its pricing. The 3GHz part will cost $637. The 2.8GHz part, Intel’s previous flagship desktop, had been priced at $508 when it was introduced in August. The 3GHz part’s $637 price tag matches that of the 2.5GHz P4 at its launch in May.
Otellini was cagey on the issue of pricing earlier, refusing to speculate on how quickly or how far the 3GHz part might come down in price. However, he also noted that while volume growth has continued in new markets, this has been an ASP recession for the semiconductor industry.
Otellini confirmed that hyper-threading would make its way to Intel’s mobile processor range, but refused to say when.
In the meantime, Intel is pushing application vendors to take full advantage of hyper-threading. Any threaded application can take advantage of hyper-threading, even without specific tuning. Even if just the operating system is threaded, you still have an advantage, said Otellini.