In reponse to my ongoing coverage of AMD's Turion 64 processor (a 64-bit capable mobile chip for the "thin & light" notebook market), ZDNet reader Bradley Coleman wrote in to find out why notebook manufacturers were choosing to go with the more power hungry of AMD's Turions rather than something that consumes less power. Wrote Coleman:
I think [the Turion] is a great chip. Its more feature rich and advanced than the Pentium M. But, It frustrates me that (as far as I know) every single laptop has been built with the ML version which uses 35W. Meanwhile there is an MT version that uses only 25W. See [the page on AMD's Web site that describes Turion model numbers]. This is a bit old, since there is an ML-40 now. Why do you think [the notebook manufacturers] won't use the better chip? I have a guess, which you may think is nuts and it may be. We know that Intel is ruthless and that they defend their strong markets. They have a lock on the thin and light market, and the MT is the thin and light chip. Perhaps they are stopping box makers from using the MT?
If you're even reading this, than chances are that you know by now that AMD has filed an antitrust suit against Intel for using a monopoly to stifle AMD's success. The complaint gives examples of where AMD feels as though its customers (systems manufacturers) were coerced into making product decisions that they may not have otherwise made had it not been for Intel's dominant and leveragable position in the market. At least one of the examples refers to Acer's plans to support an AMD product rollout and alleges that Intel's then CEO Craig Barrrett "expressed to [Acer] Intel's concern and said Acer would suffer severe consequences if it publicly supported AMD’s launch." The launch was to involve an Acer desktop and notebook. If Intel engaged in any such coercion (and I'm not saying it did), I have my doubts as to whether it would have been permissive of one of AMD's chip, but not another. So, while I'm not saying it's impossible, the aforementioned MT conspiracy theory doesn't strike a chord with me. That said, I asked AMD to comment on the inquiry and here is what AMD spokesperson Jo Albers had to say:
AMD has seen a great deal of interest in AMD Turion™ 64 mobile technology. Yes, we have a number of customers using the MT series models as well as the ML series. For example, pan-European supplier Fujitsu-Siemens Computers is offering the AMILO A7645 notebook PC powered by AMD Turion 64 mobile technology MT-32.
Kind of a boring comeback. I know. More interesting to me, in the bigger picture of the ongoing Centrino "debate," would be lab tests of an AMD notebook (featuring AMD's most advanced Turion 64 processor in terms of power consumption and performance) with an Intel-based WiFi radio versus a Centrino notebook (Pentium M, 855/915 chipset, Intel Radio) ,versus a non-Centrino notebook with the most advanced Pentium M processor/chipset and the best of the non-Intel WiFi radios out there (my fellow blogger George Ou says he has a preference for Broadcom-based devices). To make it fun, the test would be to see which does the best job of delivering on Centrino's four brand promises: 1) outstanding mobile performance, 2) great battery life, 3) thinner & lighter laptop designs, and 4) integrated wireless LAN capability. Given the subjective nature of these criteria, the methodologies would have to be worked out. But now that Intel has been attempting to set the agenda for how people should recognize a system that will serve them well in their road warriorship, the big question is "How well do non-Centrino systems live up to those criteria?"
Tangentially, riddle me this. When is a Centrino notebook not a Centrino notebook?
Suppose a new, thin or light Celeron Mobile-based notebook with an Intel radio in it (integrated wireless LAN capability) outperforms an older Centrino-notebook (under Intel's definition of Centrino, any notebook with a Celeron M in it doesn't qualify) and has better battery life? In other words, it's purely an Intel-based system that lives up to the Centrino promise better than an older Centrino notebook does, but it's not a Centrino. Hey, but a Centrino the Celeron M system is not. Perhaps it's time for the Centrino police. They'd canvas various Starbucks and hotel lobbies and when they spotted an older, not-quite-up-to-current-Centrino-snuff notebook with a Centrino sticker on it, they'd unholster their sticker scrapers and scream "YOU. OVER THERE. WORKING ON THAT THINKPAD. YES. YOU. SLOWLY, STEP AWAYYYYYY FROM THE NOTEBOOK!"
When asked about this twist, Intel spokesperson Barbara Grimes added a time element to the Centrino promise and said that the Centrino-brand helps consumers to recognize those notebooks that best live up to the four Centrino promises at any point in time. She acknowledged that a 2005-class non-Centrino notebook may do a better job of living up to the 2003 vintage Centrino promise than a 2003-class Centrino notebook, but that same rules apply to cars. For example, a 2005 Volkswagen may have a better saftey rating than a 1970 Volvo. But that doesn't necessarily mean it has a better safety rating than the 2005 Volvo. So, much the same way the benchmark for safety to which cars are held is a moving target, so too apparently is the benchmark for the Centrino promise.