The long road to Conroe

Conroe is for real

12 August 2005: Intel to unveil Pentium 4 successor at IDF

By the time Intel made the news official, Tom's Hardware Guide readers were already familiar with most of the facts:

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The current architecture named "NetBurst" was launched with the Pentium 4 ("Willamette") in 2000 and is quickly nearing the end of its life. With power consumption at record levels, Intel has no room to increase clock speeds and performance levels in the current Pentium 4 500/600 and the 90 nm Pentium D 800. The 65 nm part Pentium D 900 ("Presler"), the last NetBurst Pentium, will launch in Q1 2006 with slight increases in clock speeds.

16 August 2005: Intel to sample Conroe processor in Q1 2006

For the first time in years on the part of any technology company, high-level customers would be treated to a product launch schedule that was not only met, but beaten:

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With Yonah and Presler almost out the door, Intel's development focus in the consumer and business segment begins to shift to the next generation desktop processor architecture. The company already operates bootable systems based on Conroe processors and will initiate the sampling phase in early 2006, Tom's Hardware Guide has learned.

About one week before Intel plans to reveal more details about the future of its desktop products, news reached our offices that Intel may be much further along in the development process of its next generation desktop architecture than commonly believed.

According to sources, Conroe is up and running with multiple operating systems in Intel's validation labs and has entered the debugging process. Assuming that Conroe will run in a similar 9-month validation time frame as the current Pentium D 800 (Smithfield), Intel may target a September/October 2006 introduction date.

25 August 2005: In the heat of a 'dual-core duel,' AMD responds to Intel's Conroe

As was becoming common practice at or around the time of IDF, AMD was launching a full-court press assault on the Intel news, daring that company to make good on its pledges, and fully ready to capitalize on the slightest misstep. Intel, it turned out, was betting on this strategy from AMD, and therefore gave AMD less new information to chew on than many had expected:

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Intel's move - announced Tuesday at IDF - away from its own NetBurst architecture and towards shorter pipelines, is seen by some as another strategic victory for AMD, which was first to the finish line with 64 bit x64 architecture. At the same time, not having Intel's big pipelines to aim at ends up giving AMD one less Intel target to shoot down. So when questioned about Intel's having come around to seeing things AMD's way, [AMD server and workstation product manager Brent] Kirby changed the subject quickly, like a presidential debater reorienting a panelist's question. "Even if [Intel is] moving to a shorter pipeline," he said, "they're still in a trap with the front-side bus. That front-side bus is going to haunt them for as long as they keep that. They're going to need to make some efforts to take care of that issue."

In his first keynote address to IDF as CEO of Intel, Paul Otellini announced his company is recalibrating its performance indicators around a "performance-per-watt" scale, which may replace megahertz as Intel's key power factor. Kirby countered by saying his company's Opteron processors already meet Intel's power targets, having originally been launched at 89 watts, and with successive HE and EE units launched for 55 and 30 watts, respectively.

4 December 2005: Top-secret Intel processor plans revealed

Come December, we knew for certain that Merom - the mobile technology inspired by Yonah, which became Pentium M - would be the crux of Intel's future efforts. What would save power and increase performance in small spaces, would do the same for larger ones.

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All chips based on the Merom design will use 65 nm technology and are expected to outperform the competition both in raw speed and raw speed per Watt.

...The introduction of the Merom design will be a turning point in Intel's product policy, because it will be the backbone for all processor families that go into the desktop, the mobile or the enterprise space. In contrast, the desktop and enterprise markets are provided with Pentium 4 and Pentium D NetBurst architecture processors while the mobility CPUs are derived from the more efficient Pentium M design. At this point we should also mention that all processors currently shipping out of AMD's Fab 35 facility in Dresden, Germany, are already based on one single processor design. Still AMD has not yet been able to transition to either a 65 nm production process or 300 mm wafer manufacturing.