History draws a somewhat ambivalent image of Intel's top selling microprocessor, the Pentium 4 , because of its nearly picture-perfect career that lasted until an unprecedented turning point. Intel platforms are versatile, processors are fast and fully featured today; but they run hotter and consume more energy than comparable products offered by the competition.
It all began with a radically new 180 nm processor design in 2000, which was created for the main purpose of outperforming the Athlon competition by pure clock speed alone. Less than a year later, the chip was shrunk to 130 nm and a new platform based on socket 478 was introduced. Quickly, clock speeds had rushed from 2 to 3 GHz , giving Intel the lead it sought.
Later on, the platform was renewed twice , but performance levels did not really increase much any more. At the same time, criticism about the Pentium 4 Prescott core was reaching new heights, as the chip and its derivatives with 2 MB L2 cache as well as the dual core Smithfield were disappointments.
Today, AMD has the lead in both the single and the dual core desktop segments thanks to processors that not only perform better in most typical benchmarks, but they also require a whole lot less of power to do the job. This is obviously why Intel now focuses on platform solutions rather than on components. However, we have to emphasize that this is the clear trend for the whole hardware industry, since hardware performance is something that is sufficiently available to everybody today. Even a low-cost processor will be fast enough to power the vast majority of today's applications. Convincing people to buy something new requires the vendor to show what can be done with the new device.
In any case, it is never wrong to make product improvements when possible. In the case of the Pentium 4 processor, which is going to remain the top seller for some time, these are mostly thermal issues and the addition of features that will enable future (virtualization technology or VT is one of them). So what improvements will Cedar Mill offer?