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Bulldozer specs cause Intel to pull in roadmap

It will be quite a while before anyone is benchmarking AMD’s new Bulldozer against Ivy Bridge from Intel, but industry watchers who originally thought the match-up would not start until October, might be in for a surprise. KitGuru puts a glass to the wall and tries to discern the relevant whispers.

If you’re the market leader, then the one thing you have on your side (more than anything else) is your control over the market’s metronome. You decide when a new technology comes to market, what performance should be offered and what price can be achieved.

Intel has been in that leadership position since the first Conroe videos started to sneak out early in 2006.

Since then, AMD’s best policy has been to duck and dive, to jab and move. No point in standing toe-to-toe with Mike Tyson in his prime. Just get in the shots you can and then get the hell away.

The launch of the Phenom II X4 processors and then the Phenom II X6 that followed, both created a little movement AMD’s way – but nothing that Intel couldn’t counter with a little price-shuffle.

Executives at AMD must have been sacrificing all that’s precious to them when Intel hit the Sandy Bridge chipset issue and had to take its foot off the gas long enough to fix the issue and tidy up the channel. That hiccup brought some respite.

All well and good, but all focused 100% on what Intel’s doing and how AMD counters. The key question for 2011 is ‘Will Intel need to adopt a different strategy for Bulldozer?’.

Early roadmaps from Intel seemed to indicate that it would move to the 22nm Ivy Bridge technology for 2012. Plenty of time to bring capacity up and deliver a bump of up to 20% in performance (matching price point to price point with its present range of Sandy Bridge CPUs). There’s also the matter of a +30% boost for integrated graphics performance (by increasing the Executing Units from 12 to 16). You can see a detailed map of Ivy Bridge here.

Arguably the worst kept secret in the industry is that AMD will have Bulldozer parts, in volume, by the third quarter of this year. Rumours reaching KitGuru say that following the Sandy Bridge debacle, Intel is now going to pull in its roadmap – to try and counter Bulldozer.

Intel CEO Paul Otellini is presently weighing up the threat posed by the AMD Bulldozer

As discussed, with previous generations, Intel was content to play with its pricing to counter any threat from AMD. Pulling in its roadmap would represent a substantial change in strategy. Think ‘tail wagging the dog’.

In a recent KitGuru survey, a massive number of respondents told us which processors they wanted the most – and Bulldozer was a clear winner with 50% of the votes. The result was such a surprise that we checked back through each vote to make sure that all of them had not been registered by the ghost of Dirk Meyer. Following that, we’ve just noticed that another major web site is running its own poll – and that one shows 69% of readers are waiting for Bulldozer.

Interesting stuff.

KitGuru says: Sandy Bridge showed just what a stunningly large lead Intel had over AMD at the high end. To AMDs credit, its Fusion attack has been a real eye opener and seems to be gaining traction. By all accounts, a lot of the year’s major design deals will have already been concluded before Intel is ready to release the next Fusion-class product. The decision to speed up the tick-tock clock for Ivy Bridge will not have been taken lightly – and it seems to say a lot of good things about Bulldozer. The only thing that could delay Intel’s move to mass production could be an issue in delivery, from quake-torn Japan, of Nikon lenses needed for 22nm lithography. Watch this space!

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