Intel: Chip speed really does matter

Intel: Chip speed really does matter

Intel CEO Craig Barrett defended his company's release of ever-faster Pentium III processors last week, despite complaints about the limited number of applications for corporate users.

Barrett conceded that 95 per cent of the time corporate users won't need the latest, fastest processors, as new desktop models exceed 600MHz.

But the other 5 per cent of the time, he said, users might want that faster processor to create a graphics-intensive, Web-based application.

`Unless you buy that capability, you'll never be able to take advantage of that 5 per cent,' Barrett told 8000 attendees at the GartnerGroup Symposium/ ITxpo '99 here last week.

An informal survey of 10 information technology managers and CIOs here showed that users bought Barrett's message. All said they're not interested in buying the fastest desktops today, but they would consider speedier machines when company replacement cycles call for them.

`Many users don't need a faster machine just to do word processing or e-mail. But some engineers do need speed to move images around,' said William Kirby, manager of computer technology at Williams International, a maker of small gas turbine engines in Walled Lake, Michigan. `So, I'd say we might tend to buy 600MHz or faster machines.'

Deb Mukherjee, chief technology officer at Farmers Insurance Group of Companies in Los Angeles, agreed. `The question of upgrading for speed has been around forever, and they used to say, 'Why do human beings need to fly?' So, I think we will welcome faster machines because the applications are coming,' he said.

Analyst GartnerGroup was much more critical of the processor upgrade pathway. It told managers to customise their workplaces with many different platforms and processor speeds, recognising that most end users don't need faster machines.

Gartner analyst Michael Gartenberg said Intel faces a growing dilemma similar to one that Apple faced in 1989, when it had processors far ahead of the software demands of the time. `The question is, how does Intel sell the concept of faster when it doesn't matter?' Gartenberg asked.

Companies `don't need to upgrade and instead should focus on building a well-managed environment', he said. For example, to run the coming Windows 2000 operating system, companies need desktop machines with only Pentium II 266MHz processors, not the forthcoming Pentium III 700MHz, he said.

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