Processors have always had quite an appeal to many people; it is fascinating to keep track of their technical developments and ever-increasing performance levels. The processor landscape is in the process of changing fundamentally, however - clock speed is no longer the main criterion for performance. Performance is now a product of clock speed, processor architecture and the number of cores per processor. Other issues for many users are the amount of power a processor uses, and how much heat it generates. What this all means is that the winning formula for the processor of the future will be a product that balances performance and power requirements for the mainstream.
The arrival of dual core processors has had an impact as well. Pure clock speed has become less important for the average Joe, because now there are two cores that can take care of running multiple applications at the same time (multi-tasking). The additional core can also be used to accelerate a single application by splitting workload into nuggets, so all processor cores can work on one goal simultaneously (multi-threading).
Comparing processors thus has become more difficult. Single-threaded performance will still be very important for the next couple of years, while there are more and more thread-optimized applications. These run much faster on any dual core processor than they would on a high-speed single core, because the workload gets processed in parallel. In addition, processor benchmarking needs to take into account multi-tasking, because users increasingly run several pieces of software at the same time, whether they are aware of it or not. Deliberate multi-tasking takes the form of running multiple applications at the same time, while "unintentional" multi-tasking occurs when user applications execute while background services such as anti-virus clients run simultaneously.