Hell For Intel . . .

What kind of discounting has Intel been doing lately?

A comparison of Intel’s official prices with those found on Pricewatch reveals that what Intel has been doing is discounting their less desirable (for one reason or other) models by about a third.

For instance, of the three 90nm dual core Smithfields, two are selling for about a third off. Some single core Pentiums, both in the mid- and low-range, are selling for about a third off. Celerons are usually going for about a third off.

Some of the odd ducks in the Intel lineup that don’t even show up on the price lists are pretty cheap, too. For instance, you can buy a dual-core Pentium D 805 for just $132.

Intel is obviously trying to clear out old inventory, but what is odd is that they aren’t discontinuing most of these models. The only recent product discontinuation notice has been for the Pentium D 920.

Instead, some of these models are going to be getting a new stepping, which indicates they’re going to be around for a while.

Phase Two

More cuts are coming. By Monday, official prices on the Presler Pentium Ds are going to be slashed.

Intel normally has a steady price pattern: $637/$401/$316/$278/$241/$209/$178/$163. They usually do either $316 or $278, and they don’t necessary hit the last steps, but it’s normally a regular pattern, and usually, when Intel needs an extra boost, they just push up the next scheduled cut a couple months.

Not this time. Today’s $637 Pentium D 950 will be Monday’s $316 Pentium D 950. Yes, a new model is coming, so the price would normally go down to $401 anyway, but notice that Intel is jumping down two rungs of the pricing structure. That also will be true for the other Presler Ds.

There will be a new Pentium D 960 at the end of April, but it won’t be priced at the usual $637, but instead $530. So will the 2.67GHz Conroe when it comes out.

A more subtle hint of things to come is the absence of information about most of Intel’s desktop products through September. It’s hard to see how you can sell a single-core 3.6GHz Cedar Mill for $400 when you’ll be selling a dual-core Presler for $316 in the third quarter.

At the least, there will have to be some price adjustments, but, very unlike Intel, they’re not suggesting what they may be.

A Sign of Disarray

The out-of-character pricing is not affecting notebook chips; the usual patterns seem to be pretty much holding there, but things are getting whacky, if not panicky on the desktop side. Intel just doesn’t do things this way, even when they’re in hot water.

Perhaps Intel’s core problem is represented by my reaction to these low prices: nothing. No desire to buy, not even a twinge. No enthusiasm to curb. Not a matter of wanting a lower price, it’s not wanting the product at all.

This is not to say nothing Intel is offering shouldn’t float some people’s boats (there’s something to be said for a $132 dual-core processor, particularly for overclockers), but what has happened so far is extraordinary by Intel’s standards, this is closer to AMD during the Thunderbird era than business-as-usual-for-Blue.

You have to wonder: if Intel has to do this to move product now, what are they going to have to do three, six, nine months from now to move the same products when they’re selling something much better pretty cheaply?

And what is all this going to do to AMD, to what they charge and how many they make?

I think we’re in for some turbulent times.


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