Athlon XP - The Model Numbers Are A Success!
AMD's Athlon-series of processors has been an excellent product since its first release in August 1999. However, as good as the K7-design might be, AMD started to suffer from the clock speed advantage of Intel's Pentium 4 processor. The majority of technologically less educated buyers wouldn't care for the fact that Athlon is able to do more work than Pentium 4 per clock cycle. Core clock was all that mattered to them, and while Intel sold Pentium 4 at 1.8 GHz, AMD had nothing 'faster' than its Athlon 1.4 GHz.
Finally, AMD made a rather desperate move and introduced Athlon XP along with a new 'model rating', which gives the processor a 'model number' that is supposed to reflect its performance in comparison to Intel's Pentium 4. The press received this idea with very mixed feelings and many journalists feared that this new rating system would rather damage than help AMD's Athlon XP-sales.
Today, a couple of months later, I'd say that AMD's plan actually worked. Even I am catching myself often enough thinking that AthlonXP1900+ is actually running at 1.9 GHz instead of the actual 1.6 GHz. Once AMD has caught up with Intel in terms of process technology and introduces the 0.13 µm 'Thoroughbred' core, AMD will have the die size advantage back in its court. The 80 mm² of 'Thoroughbred' will be significantly less than the 146 mm² of 'Northwood'.
Northwood - Late, But Not Too Late
The first time we reported on Intel's upcoming P4-core 'Northwood', the expected replacement of 'Willamette', was in late 2000. Back then we had to tell the sad story that Willamette's platform (Socket423) would only be very short-lived, because 'Northwood' would facilitate a new Socket478. Back then, Intel's roadmap expected 'Northwood' to be introduced in late Q3/2001, alongside with 'Brookdale', the i845 chipset.
Problems with the new 0.13 µm process, a better than expected yield of Willamette as well as a slow market delayed the release of 'Northwood' into the first days of 2002. This delay had only one bad side effect for Intel. Due to the rather huge die size of Willamette (217 mm²) Intel wasn't able to produce as many Pentium 4 processors as the market wanted in Q4 2001. Besides that, 'Northwood' is still right on the money and right on time.