Intel CEO Paul Otellini's memorable "shame on us... mea culpa, we screwed up" March 2007 speech to Morgan Stanley investors came after his company's marketing fog machine could no longer conceal the truth that, depending on your point of view, Intel was peddling technology that it knew to be somewhere between four and eight years behind AMD's. AMD told you so, and so did I, but Intel's marketing is capable of overpowering reason. Intel manages to thrive by setting expectations that match its technology, and raising those expectations every two years by just enough to make you see your Intel-based PC or server as wanting. Otellini got stuck apologizing because AMD got a chance to show buyers Opteron's potential. The market's expectations followed, as they naturally will when people buy technology that never needs replacing. Given the choice between buying well and buying often, the market chose the former.
Intel's smokescreen is back in overdrive. Those who do a light amount of homework before buying are getting Intel's same old message: Higher clock speeds, bigger cache, manufacturing process shrink, and faster front-side bus make the world go 'round. That latest speed bump makes your one year old computer look pretty sad (on paper). And when Intel goes "tock," it's rip and replace time to get those extra cores and the broader bus. Intel put the cherry on top by getting everyone worked up over CPU power draw to the exclusion of total system power draw. Intel sets the market's agenda. It tells buyers what matters.
AMD designs technology that will enable the workloads that you'll be running in two or three years. It strikes many as improbable when I tell them that AMD-based hardware, servers in particular, get faster over time as operating systems and application developers start unlocking the potential of the platform. When I say this, I may not take enough care to point out that AMD is committed to raising that potential between major revisions of its CPUs and whole system platforms. Intel can't catch up because AMD presents a moving target with meaningful point enhancements between major architecture revisions. AMD ticks and tocks as well, but it's the market that swings AMD's pendulum.