In a move similar to Microsoft's decision to drop product-version numbers for year-based monikers such as Windows 95, Intel announced this week that it will drop raw speed measurements from its product names and move to a new model numbering system. The new system resembles the systems certain automakers use, Intel says. The idea is to make the company's chips more readily identifiable to average consumers, which has become increasingly difficult as Intel's microprocessor product lines have dramatically expanded in recent years.
The change also formalizes a move away from the so-called "megahertz myth," which Intel started with the introduction of its Pentium M processors in late 2002. Pentium M processors run at raw clock speeds far below desktop processors such as the Pentium 4 processor, but they often outperform Pentium 4 chips. Although raw clock speed will no longer be included in Intel product names, the company will still market those figures, and we can expect PC makers to continue to do so as well.
Rival chipmaker AMD was the first company to address the megahertz-myth problem by naming its products according to which Intel chip they compared to rather than by raw clock speed. So, for example, the AMD Athlon XP Processor Model 3200+ typically outpaces a 3.2GHz Intel Pentium 4 processor, despite the fact that the AMD chip runs at only 2.2GHz. AMD describes Intel's new scheme as "arbitrary," noting that AMD's own naming scheme is designed to be more open and obvious.
Under Intel's new naming scheme, which is similar to automaker BMW's naming structure, Intel processors will fall into one of three series--300, 500, or 700. Within each series, a higher number will denote a wider range of features, so a hypothetical Intel 550 chip would be more powerful than a 530 chip. In the company's current range of desktop-oriented products, the entry-level Celeron will become part of the 300 series, the Pentium 4 will become part of the 500 series, and the Pentium 4 with HT Technology Extreme Edition will become part of the 700 series. Under the new scheme, a typical 3.2GHz Pentium 4 processor, now called the Intel Pentium 4 processor with HT Technology 3.20 GHz, might be called Pentium 4 Processor 550 D or something similar. The D suffix denotes a desktop chip, and Intel says it will use the M suffix for mobile chips.