Centrino Is Gone, But Intel Chip Confusion Remains

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Remember when choosing a new, faster PC only required knowing the processor name and clock speed? Wish that simplicity would return to PC buying? Don't hold your breath. Buying an Intel PC is going to change, but for the better may be a different story.

Intel's Bill Calder yesterday revealed that the company's branding will be "simplified" into entry-level, mid-level, and high-level, referring to Intel Core i3, i5, and i5.

That would be easier to grok, if it were really that simple. But, that's just the tip of Intel's silicon pyramid.

Below the Intel Core family, the company will still offer "entry-level" Celeron and "basic" Pentium machines, Calder wrote. Celeron will eventually go away as a PC product, but will still be used for Wi-Fi and WiMAX products. Huh?

Intel Core is described as the company's new "hero" brand, and the focus of its strategy.

"The fact of the matter is, we have a complex structure with too many platform brands, product names, and product brands, and we've made things confusing for consumers and IT buyers in the process. All that is about to change. Or at least, we begin a process of change that will evolve over time," Calder wrote.

Calder's readers were not impressed.

"This new marketing stinks," one commented on Calder's post, echoing the sentiment of others. "I miss the old days where things were CPU-level and frequency."

"Please try to make the product numbers actually comparable and useful even for people that don’t have the Intel product charts memorized," pleaded another reader.

"I mean, today on a given Best Buy laptop page there’s T3400, SU2700, T5550, T6400, SU9400, P8600, SP9400, etc. And, of course, the number has absolutely no bearing on performance. You should never, ever have the situation where a processor with a 9400 number is slower than one with a 6400 number."

Beyond that, there are various chip features, such a vPro, available on some systems but not others.

I don't think Intel intentionally makes its branding incomprehensible, but it releases a tremendous amount of technology and still lacks a way to make it understandable and comparable to PC buyers, both within its own product line and to competitors' processors.

Adding to the confusion is the naming of future processors, such as Lynnfield and Clarksfield, which eventually must be translated into marketing names, such as Core i3.

This makes PC purchases a lot more difficult than it should be and leaves customers wondering how one product stacks up against another. Intel desperately needs to address that issue, which I see as the core (pun optional) of its branding problem.

David Coursey finds Intel's processor family branding to be very confusing, and he's not alone. He tweets as techinciter and can be e-mailed using the form at www.coursey.com/contact.

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