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P4 launch delay a cunning plan?

Marchitecture, not architecture

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Last Friday's coup de grace on the hapless Timna (see Intel's Timna dead - official) could be seen as a welcome return to sanity for Intel's marketing department.

Having the guts to kill a product some six months before it was due to launch is pretty strategic compared with the tactical flounderings of the last year and a bit.

Recalls for no fewer that three high profile products - the non-functional three-slot Vancouver Rambus mobos, the completely useless Caminogate Cape Cod abomination and the hurriedly-launched and even more hurriedly recalled 1.13GHz PIII - have left Chipzilla with more than a little egg on its face.

So killing Timna relatively early looks almost as if things are getting back under control.

Sacrificial duck

But let's consider the timing here. Was the dead duck Timna given the chop to detract attention from the announced delay a few days earlier of Intel's flagship Pentium 4, scheduled for launch on Halloween, but now pushed out to the end of November at the earliest?

And, swallowing even more of that famous Intel paranoia, how about this idea:

Intel has deliberately delayed the P4 launch for marketing, not technical reasons.

The bug with the 850 Tehama chipset blamed for the P4 slippage is fairly minor and reportedly only affects one, unnamed, video card. Intel has already identified the cause and fixed the problem, and, according to one Register source, the 850 is 'already more stable than the 810, 820 and 840 chipsets combined'.

It would appear that P4 and Tehama are ready to roll, so why the delay?

For starters, the takeup from OEMs has been less than enthusiastic. A number of them saying they have no plans to offer P4 systems this year, citing price and price/performance issues. Certainly the earliest 1.4 and 1.5GHz P4s don't offer a lot more bang per buck that a 1GHz PIII, let alone an Athlon (see P4 benchmarks - the real thing?).

Intel has already missed the window for getting P4 into the shops in time for the Christmas rush. The company is also regularly bashed for cynically cutting prices in early January, just after world+dog has bought junior a new PC for Christmas.

So is it not possible that Intel will continue with the price cuts on the high-end PIIIs planned to coincide with the P4 launch later this month, making its Christmas offerings more competitive, and letting P4 slide into the new year?

And who knows, by that time a faster P4 might be available - remember a 2GHz part was demoed at IDF. A P4 running at more than 1.5GHz would show a real performance gain over PIII, and, more importantly, generate better headlines. ®

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