Stunted Growth

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TweedleDont . . .

Cebit is beginning, and usually this is a time for the computer industry to shift into higher gear.

This year, there’s plenty of new transmission gear, but the engines aren’t there.

Much of the new technology is dependent on new CPU engines driving them, but Intel and AMD have essentially abdicated the roles as engine builders, abdicated in much different ways.

Intel of course would feverishly deny that, and will doing a lot of things to promote their products, but where’s the beef? Who in their right mind would buy a Prescott at this point in time?

Not Dell, for one. They aren’t selling any PressHots. If Dell isn’t selling Intel, something’s got to be bad.

You can talk about DDR2 and PCIExpress video cards until you’re blue in the face, but the initial generation of both won’t perfrom substantially better than current stuff. If the new CPU were stellar, you might overlook that, but the only thing stellar about PressHot is its heat.

Every indication from Intel so far seems to indicate that they have little confidence in being able to fundamentally solve the problems with PressHot any time soon. Otherwise, we wouldn’t be hearing about all kinds of attempts to stretch Northwoods a little more.

They may be able to tweak down the heat to at least tolerable-to-OEM levels eventually, but that isn’t much solace to overclockers.

BTW, both our CPU Database and other reports from the field indicate that overclocked PressHots are only yielding 3.5-3.7GHz using high-end air, and blowing a lot of hot air in the process. This is barely better than what recent Northwoods are doing.

So for all intents and purposes, Intel can’t make an acceptable engine for this year’s new models.

And TweedleWont

You’d think this would be good news for AMD, and that they’d be doing everything possible to take advantage of this situation.

Will they or won’t they?

Outside of seeing an FX-53 for those with more money than sense, and an Athlon 2800+ for the upwardly mobile peasants, AMD seems awfully unconcerned about getting their fans on board the Hammer bus.

As of late, the measley little indicators we are getting seem to indicate that we won’t see socket 939 Newcastles.

Update: Here’s a very recent tidbit perhaps going the other way: “With socket 939, there will be a much wider selection of processors to fill the platform, and there is much more room for future upgradeability.” Then again, right now, AMD’s desktop socket 940 processor line consists of the FX.

They’ve delayed socket 939 another month or more, and leaked roadmaps seem to indicate that they’ll just make a handful of them in 2Q. This is pretty bizarre behavior when this is supposed to be your bread-and-butter mainstream line and Intel is on the ropes.

It seems like AMD wants to make socket 939 some sort of premium brand, but this is ludicrous when the “premium” (dual-channel) has been standard mainstream equipment from your dominant competitor for a year.

Instead, they seem to want to shove everyone who wants to pay a mere $170 or $200 or so into what will eventually become their budget line. This makes no sense.

The more someone needs performance, the more likely it is that person will get benefit from (and want) dual-channel. If they really don’t need dual-channel, they really don’t need Hammer, either.

It’s not like making a dual-channel processor is any harder for AMD than making a single-channel processor. As someone at AMD pointed out a little while back, there’s no real difference between making the two and the differentiation is just for branding purposes.

If AMD wants to give the person willing to spend $175-200 the choice between dual- or single-channel, that’s fine. Let us hope they end up doing that.

If they do, what will happen is that a sizable number of folks will buy a socket 939 Newcastle system today, and probably upgrade the CPU a year from now.

If they don’t, what most of those folks will probably do will be to hold out with their socket As and not to buy anything sometime next year.

The AMDroids that have (and no doubt will) write me on this never seem to realize that you don’t make any money from a processor you never make or sell, or that it’s a lot better selling a half-million CPUs at $200 than twenty thousand at $700.

They also seem to think that you all are somehow compelled to do whatever AMD wants, sort of Dawn of the ‘Droids. That’s not what you tell me. 🙂

But can you blame the ‘droids when the company doesn’t seem to realize that, either?

In any event, the more AMD squelches the Hammer market, the fewer PCI Express mobos will get sold, and thus, the fewer PCI Express video cards.

DDR2? AMD definitely isn’t touching it for now, but won’t say when they will. Maybe next fall, maybe next year. Since the memory controller on Hammers will apparently need to be revised to handle DDR2, this is a rather more important question than it would be on the Intel side.

When will Hammers be able to handle DDR2? When that happens, will they be able to handle both DDR and DDR2, or will it be either/or? Personally, these are answers I would want to have before laying out my hard earned money down the road, and you should, too. If AMD doesn’t think you deserve an answer, then they don’t deserve your money, either.

What AMD has never realized is that answers to these kinds of question is part of customer service, especially corporate customer service, and until they do, they’ll simply never make any serious inroads into the corporate market.

It’s also another reason why a high pricing policy today is so short-sighted. If prices were mainstream, people could buy something today and probably get most of a year’s use out of it before DDR2 versions of Hammer come along. If AMD waits six months or more before they do that with socket 939, that window of opportunity dwindles to months, and people may well decide to wait a little longer.

A Stunted Start

Whatever the reason the CPU companies have, the growth of new technologies like PCI-Express, DDR2 and (to a lesser degree) SATA are going to be stunted because they can’t carry the ball all by themselves. All they can do is help the star performer a little, and right now, he’s nowhere in sight.

Ed

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