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The long road to Conroe

 

Santa Clara (CA) - History may credit AMD almost as much as Intel with the creation of the Woodcrest, Conroe, and Merom architectures, the latter two of which Intel released today. In 2004, AMD effectively threw down a very sizeable gauntlet, challenging Intel on every conceivable front, including retail outlets and courtrooms, to innovate or perish. In good time, Intel responded, with a marketing program and technology initiative that many felt was contrived, inconclusive, lacking vigor.

Intel's Israel design team spelled out for the company the extent of what it had to do to meet AMD's challenge: The NetBurst architecture was a physical and thermal dead end. Intel had to stop, repurpose itself, and build the most convincing low-power, high-performance architecture in history, from scratch. It would be an impossible task for any other company. Whether Intel has actually succeeded will depend on the next few months of extensive user testing. But we've seen the power of Intel's new launch vehicle, and the capability for it to meet and probably exceed anything AMD ever anticipated, appears to be there.

Here, from the pages of Tom's Hardware Guide and TG Daily, is how we've covered the last few years of events leading up to today's historic launch:

26 March 2004: Intel Conroe means goodbye to Pentium 4

The first word of Conroe's existence came over two years ago, with this bulletin carried on what was then called the Tom's Hard News page:

March 26, 2004 - 11:07 EST

Intel Conroe means goodbye to Pentium 4...A fresh roadmap from Hiroshige Goto on PC Watch mentions Conroe as a codename for the first time. Conroe is the replacement next generation desktop chip, which builds in all sorts of super features.

21 February 2005: Intel launches Pentium 4 600-series

The fact that Intel was lagging behind AMD technologically started to become apparent in early 2005, when the company finally took steps to make x86 architecture available on a 64 bit platform. At one time - in defense of the need for Itanium architecture - the company had said a 100% compatible 64 bit x86 architecture would be impossible. AMD saw that as a gauntlet thrown down with its name attached. It took that challenge and ran with it. This is how Intel began its initial response to AMD's move:

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Intel today released its first 64 bit capable desktop processor. The new Pentium 4 6xx-series adds more performance as well as Enhanced SpeedStep, a feature that throttles clock speed and can reduce power consumption of the chip.

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The big news of the introduction is the arrival of EM64T. About two years after AMD's first 64 bit desktop processors, Intel now follows with a very similar extension that allows users to run 32 bit and 64 bit applications on the chip without taking performance hits in the 32 bit space as it was the case with Intel's IA-64 approach. Later this year, Intel will include EM64T across it entire product line, including Celeron D chips and specially marked Pentium 4 5xx versions and clock speeds of at least 3.0 GHz.

3 March 2005: Intel aims to decrease power consumption of desktop processors to 60 watts

Here was the big problem with NetBurst: You couldn't ramp up the gigahertz without creating a toaster oven. So at the Spring IDF in 2005, Intel announced that this state of affairs simply won't work out for the long term:

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In a recent article, we reported that Intel is pushing the power envelope with its desktop dual-core processors to a new record level of 130 watts, raising concerns of additional cost for users to control heat and acoustics levels of a mainstream PC. As we learned at IDF, Intel's chip development will be turning the corner: The company intends to dramatically decrease power consumption to less than half of the the upcoming Pentium Extreme Edition 840.