Did you think that Dell Computer and Intel Corp. are joined at the hip? Perhaps, but the PC giant may be unintentionally exposing some holes in its processor partner's hype.
For one thing, Dell is having phenomenal success with a notebook workstation using, of all things, a Pentium IIIM Tualatin processor, according to a firm's spokeswoman. You don't expect the workhorse notebook PC Tualatin to be the engine driving a workstation, even a mobile variety.
Of course, the 1.2-GHz Pentium IIIM doesn't have the clock rate of Intel's 2.2-GHz Pentium 4 workstation chips. But the Dell spokesperson said engineers and technologists can download the same programs from their desktop workstations which run fine on the laptop version without much degradation.
It's not as if Intel-inspired customers were clamoring for mobile workstations with super-high clock rates. "We introduced the Pentium IIIM Tualatin mobile workstation because our customer base asked us for it," said Dell.
So what does that say about all Intel's ballyhooed processor clock race? If Pentium IIIM Tualatin can power a mobile workstation, that is cause to ponder whether Intel's ever-rampaging clock frequency is the end-all and be-all as advertised.
There's no doubt that Pentium 4 runs better than Tualatin, but maybe not all that much better if Dell mobile workstations can woo customers.
Intel hype hasn't fared much better with Dell's desktop workstation line, which is doing well with uniprocessor Pentium 4 Northwood chips for entry level systems and 2D graphics. Dell does have dual Xeon Pentium 4 Prestonia workstations with Direct Rambus DRAM memory, but this fall will move as well to Prestonia workstations using the new Intel Placer and Granite Bay DDR memory.
Intel also bombed out with Dell pushing its new 64-bit Itanium processor for workstations, which failed to catch on. Dell dropped the Itanium workstation last month because of poor sales, as previously reported. Instead the computer firm will concentrate on 32-bit Pentium 4 family Xeon processors for workstations, selling at less than half the Itanium model pricetag.
Now Itanium has always been an enigmatic 64-bit Intel chip, often viewed as a path-finding precursor for the followon McKinley processor. It never has ramped up in large enough volumes to drive down skyhigh prices. McKinley slated for real mass production should change all that.
Still 64-bit chips must compete with far less costly 32-bit brethren for the high-end desktop space. And that could be just as much a headache for Advanced Micro Devices as for Intel.
AMD's announced strategy for its new 64-bit Claw Hammer family coming out in the second half is to initially hit the desktop market. This in sharp contrast to Intel's game plan which is push its 64-bit Itanium and follow-on McKinley processors initially for enterprise servers and high performance workstations.
If Intel has trouble pushing its 64-bit line against existing 32-bit processors for high-end desktops, can AMD with far less market muscle fare any better in 64-bit desktop chips? However, AMD said its 64-bit Hammer family will soon replace all its high-end 32-bit Athlon series, so unlike Intel, there's no lower price competing architecture.
And all the Intel and AMD workstation processor hype still must dislodge the powerful Unix-based established computer base of many vendors. In this shootout the market, not advertising-ese, will determine the winners.