Intel drops "Pentium" brand


Chicago (IL) - Intel has made a final decision to get rid of one of its oldest and most valuable brands, sources told TG Daily: "Pentium," unveiled in 1993 for its P5 processor generation, will begin to quietly disappear in the current CPU generation such as the single-core 600 series as well as the D 800 and D 900 families.

Sources indicated that Intel will drop the Pentium name without making a major announcement, but simply transition to processor names such as "Intel D 920" or "Intel 672" without introducing a new brand. Apparently, the transition is planned to begin in the immediate future. The company declined to comment on the possibly fading Pentium brand.

The decision to depart from an established brand always is risky, but Kevin Krewell, principal analyst with In-Stat/MDR and editor in chief of the Microprocessor Report, suggests that the Pentium naming tradition was becoming old, confusing and desperately needed a refreshment. "In my opinion, Intel should have introduced a new name after launching Pentium II. It was getting quite confusing already back then," he said. After having squeezed more than a dozen variations of Pentiums under one roof since the brand's introduction in 1993, a shift in Intel's marketing and product strategy may have been the decisive impact to kick out Pentium.

According to Krewell, the processor is becoming less important in Intel's product line-up: "Intel downplays the processor brand. The spotlight is on platforms such as Centrino," he said. He expects that the loss of Pentium will have a financial, impact, but believes that it will not large enough to hurt Intel: "They can throw an amazing amount of cash at branding as soon as a new product is announced."

Rob Enderle, principal analyst with the Enderle Group, told TG Daily that Intel has informed OEM's some time ago that the Pentium brand will be going away. "Those OEM's are very upset about this decision. Pentium kept the product line-up somewhat in order. The complexity of Intel's products creates too many possibilities to put a system together. It's a nightmare," Enderle said.

While companies that command the chain from building and selling a system, such as Dell, may benefit from Intel's decision, traditional system builders are left behind, Enderle believes: "The more choices you have, the more problems arise at the retail level," he explained.

Enderle goes as far as saying that AMD may benefit from the outgoing Pentium brand and attract even more system builder attention. While AMD typically closely watches what OEM's are asking for, Intel on the other side "has a history of not listening to OEM's," he said. "Their approach typically is "it's ok if you disagree, but we are going through with this anyway," according to Enderle.

Still, Enderle found Intel's decision surprising. "Pentium was not a damaged good that would have forced Intel to such a departure. I cannot really remember when GE the last time threw out such a brand. It is like General Motors not selling Chevrolets anymore."