Intel and BMW

Shows how much I know about cars, but I saw a BMW 8-series coupe on the road the other day in North York, and I thought it was new. Nope. I didn’t even know BMW had even-numbered lines, apparently there will be a 6-series soon.

Speaking of BMW-esque numbering schemes, most of you will probably have heard that Intel is going to be transitioning to just such a scheme for their CPUs, using the same three digit model number as BMW, separating their offerings into 3-series, 5-series, and 7-series lines.

Odd though, unlike cars, CPUs don’t come out with a refreshed lineup every calendar year, so it isn’t possible for Intel to reuse model numbers. Am I the only one that sees a problem once Intel releases 100 CPUs for each line? Maybe they’ll switch to a 4-series, 6-series, and 8-series. Or maybe they’ll finally drop the Pentium name and have a Sexium/Hexium 3, 5, and 7-series.

In any case, Intel’s new numbering scheme definitely loses information, and I’m not sure that it transfers well from the automobile world. Sure, you know the higher numbered CPUs are better, but they have so many offerings for each 3/5/7 line that it just becomes confusing (at last count it was in the 10-15 range when including both desktop and notebook CPUs).

When a car has a higher number, you can say with virtual certainty that that the engine is larger (more cylinders, larger cylinders, etc.). Engine size is the primary factor in determining performance, the same way MHz used to be the primary factor in determining performance for CPUs.

What are you going to say for a higher numbered CPU? The higher numbered ones won’t necessary have a higher MHz, the whole point of this numbering scheme is to downplay the importance of MHz. Instead, performance comes from a combination of closely-weighted factors, of which MHz is just one of them. I can’t picture the common folk talking about or understanding things like cache size, cache associativity, FSB speed, pipeline depth, branch prediction table sizes, number of functional units, etc.

I think the scheme’s going to blow up in their face if they don’t change the technology back so that it has a single overriding factor that determines performance. You have to let the common joe brag about having a “bigger engine”, then let the technology buffs fight amongst themselves over the less significant factors.

They’re probably betting on the multi-core thing (i.e. more than one CPU in a single physical package). They’d better make sure that performance scales close to linearly as you add more cores, or they’ll be back in the same MHz boat they’re in now.

One Comment

  1. Russian CO-OP says:

    Intel’s marketing was always 1 step ahead of everyone else… just remember the 8086 vs Motorola’s more supirior 68000 days… Intel wins, Intel always wins.