Santa Clara (CA) – Intel today unveiled the brand of its upcoming processor: Nehalem, the successor of the Core 2 Duo CPU series, will be introduced as “Core i7” later this year and the company hopes that the new brand will be easily recognized and remembered by customers when they walk into a store to buy a new PC.
Ever since Gigahertz numbers lost their appeal for AMD’s and Intel’s marketing whizzes, both companies seem to have been desperately looking for a decent sequence numbering system for their products.
AMD initially chose a strategy to describe its processors with a MHz-like number that was comparable to Intel’s Pentium chips (of course they did not admit that and said it was only a comparison to the preceding AMD CPU generation) and eventually ended up with processors numbers that are not just inconsistent (Phenom 8000 series), but very few can actually understand. Intel’s sequence numbers across all products have been a mess for several years: We doubt that the average sales person at your local Best Buy will be able to tell you what the important differences between Intel’s 2000-, 4000-, 6000- and 8000- series desktop processors are.
To come up with a new brand back in 2006, Intel’s choice of “Core” was actually smart. Core 2 Duo was always perceived as a simple, trustworthy name that suited the purpose of the mainstream approach of Intel at the time. But, if you think about it, the brand never made sense – Core 2 Duo in essence means “Core 2 2”. Even if you know that Core 2 Duo means that this is a second generation Core processor with two cores, you may ask questions about the name since Core 2 Duo was not the second, but the first generation Core micro-architecture.
Nehalem is a new architecture and Intel had a an opportunity to come up with a new processor name, which the company actually did. Nehalem will not become the much speculated Core 3. Instead, Intel chose to name its next desktop processors with Bloomfield and Lynnfield cores “Core i7”. Intel said that this is “the first of several new identifiers to come as different products launch over the next year.” According to the manufacturer, the Core i7 processor brand logo will be used for high-performance desktop PCs with a separate black logo for Intel’s highest-end “Extreme Edition.” Intel will continue to add processor model numbers to differentiate each chip.
Of course we had questions why “i7” and what “i7” means. Our guess is that “i” refers to Intel and 7 … well, we don’t know. It isn’t Intel’s seventh generation chip (that would be the first Pentium 4 that was introduced in 2000 with the 180 nm Willamette core). Intel told us that “i7” was simply chosen because it is “short and sweet”. The company showed some understanding for our confusion over this name choice and promised that i7 would make sense down the road when additional new identifiers are introduced. Intel representatives also admitted that processor buyers need to get familiar with this new name, but the company hopes that, once this happens, they will aim directly for an i7 processor – just like they would know why they would want a 7-series or 5-series BMW. This whole car analogy (interestingly, it is always BMW) always comes up when AMD or Intel introduce a new brand or sequence number and most of the time it is usually the customer’s task to decipher the numbering mess behind the main brand.
At this time, Intel provides no guidance what i7 means, which other identifiers are in the works and how i7 will evolve over time. Our first impression is that i7 is an emotionless and much more technical name than Core 2 Duo. But we have no idea if that will be the general impression of the market and if it was Intel’s intention to come up a cold and very technical name. However, we do are quite sure that this new processor will create even more confusion for average PC buyers. Core 2 Duos, Core 2 Quads, Pentiums and Celerons are likely to be phased out over time (Intel will keep the Xeon brand, we were told), but they remain available for now. Without a numbering system that works across all processor families and serves as an easy to understand indicator for the performance and features of each processor, i7 will only cause additional confusion that, in our opinion, is absolutely unnecessary. We give Intel the benefit of the doubt that i7 will make more sense in a few months.
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