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True Performance Initiative

By John Virata
Nov 6, 2001

When Intel launched its "Intel Inside" initiative in 1994, there were more than two CPU manufacturers vying for your CPU dollars. The Macintosh was cruising along at 25MHz running on Motorola's 68000 series CPUs, and PC users were running DOS or Windows 3.x. By virtue of Intel launching its advertising blitz (though many of the company's TV commercials were created on the Motorola-based Macintosh), consumers equated power with megahertz speed, and in the megahertz speed world, Intel ruled the road. The company continually ran circles around its competitors, and the war was won. The single notion that processor speed is all that matters when buying a computer was etched in silicon.


Fast forward to the Summer of 2000. Apple Computer downplays the so-called megahertz gap and tries to tell the world that megahertz clock speed doesn't really tell the true overall performance of a computer system. Bus speeds, hard drive speeds, and optimized operating systems are all factors that contribute to the overall performance of a system, Apple reinforced. While Intel and its competitors pushed 1GHz and faster, Apple's Motorola CPUs were maxing out at 500MHz, half the "speed" of an Intel/AMD CPU. To combat the megahertz gap, Apple ships G4 machines with dual CPUs running at 450 and 500MHz. Two CPUs are better than one CPU right? And doesn't 500+500=1GHz? So on the one hand Jobs and Co. tried to play down the megahertz manipulation of the PC world by saying that megahertz doesn't mean everything, yet on the other, Apple ships Macs with dual CPUs that surprisingly equals 1GHz if you add them together. Apple hoped this would bridge the perception that more equals better. To the consumer, the two CPUs did equal that of what Intel was shipping, but CPUs don't scale that way right? Well, Apple sort of tried to stop the megahertz madness, and is still trying to figure out how to attack the perception that megahertz matters most.

Now AMD is taking a stab at market leader Intel's grasp on the megahertz mindshare market with its True Performance Initiative. According to AMD, TPI is supposed to define AMD's measure of processor performance. AMD calls it a more accurate measure than just relying on processor speed. However, AMD has no performance metric that it has standardized on. In an effort to help spur this initiative, AMD names all of its AMD Athlon XP processors using model numbers rather than megahertz clock speeds. This sounds all well and good until you hear what AMD's latest model processor is named.

Rather than just Athlon Plus or Athlon XP, its AMD Athlon XP processor 1900+, yet another number naming scheme, but this time the numbers are only relevant to AMD CPUs. Does 1900+ sound faster than 2GHz eventhough 1900+ isn't a measure of anything other than AMD's own marketing initiative? For Joe Megahertz, it might seem a bit confusing, and gosh we all know that consumers need to be less confused rather than more confused. So with all this megahertz marketing madness, are we all still confused?

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John Virata is senior editor of Digital Media Online. You can email him at jvirata@digitalmedianet.com
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