Bidding adieu to Pentium M

Familiar chip label about to give way to new Duo and Solo designations, sources say.

The Pentium name will go into partial retirement in January, sources say. Intel will sell its upcoming Yonah processor for notebooks and thin desktops under two designations, according to sources: Duo and Solo. The Duo label will essentially mean that the chip inside has two cores; notebooks with a single-core Yonah will sport a Solo designation.

As a result, the Pentium M designation for the company's mobile chips vanishes, sources say, meaning the brand name that helped Intel establish its position in the market will fade out in a key product family. Server chips stopped carrying the Pentium name years ago, but the name is still used on current desktop and notebook chips.

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Video: Otellini on key chip initiatives
--Intel's CEO speaks at the Churchill Club earlier this month. For more videos from that event, click here.

The Pentium name continues to live on in desktops, but it could begin to fade out with a new line of dual-core chips coming in the second half of 2006. The shift in desktop chips then will be similar to the jump from Pentium M to Yonah. Intel declined to comment.

Intel CEO Paul Otellini will show off computers containing the chip at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas during a speech on Jan. 5. Yonah chips, and the notebooks containing them, will come out the same month.

"I think (Intel chief marketing officer) Eric Kim is trying to put his mark on Intel," said Nathan Brookwood, an analyst at Insight 64. Kim came to Intel from Samsung in 2004. Brookwood also noted that in upcoming versions of the Intel Inside sticker that will appear on PCs, the "e" in Intel is no longer dropped. The branding stickers contain other visual changes as well, Brookwood added.

Yonah chips will run from 1.06GHz to 2.16GHz at launch and range in price from $241 to $637 in quantities of 1,000, according to road maps obtained earlier in the year.

The branding changes will slightly change the look of PCs, but they also may help Intel streamline the names of its many product lines.

A few years ago, it was easy to figure out what chip came inside your Intel-based box. The company only sold one chip at a time--the main difference was whether the Pentium II chip in your computer ran at 266MHz or 300MHz. Occasionally, there was overlap between two chip families.

Now, Intel sells a wide variety of chips tailored to different market segments and customer tastes. The company's processor price list, which only contained a few chips in 1997, now lists more than . These chips vary by power consumption, speed, cache size, underlying architecture, extra features and other factors.

Thus, to decipher what sort of chip is included in a PC, it helps to have a working knowledge of ancient languages--or at least a decoder ring. The dizzying choices will expand in 2006, according to price lists seen by CNET

Some of next year's chips will include virtualization, which lets a chip juggle multiple tasks by dividing the computer's innards into separate units; other nearly identical chips will not. Some chips will also come with execute/disable, or XD technologies, designed to neuter virus and Trojan threats; others will not.

The idea for tailoring chips for different markets started in 1997 under the direction of then-CEO Andy Grove. He coined the term "multiple bifurcation" to describe the idea in meetings because he didn't know if there were real words (as opposed to creative corporate speak) to describe additional splits in a product line after bifurcation.

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