Two triple-core units have shipped - the 2.1GHz Phenom 8400 and the 2.3GHz Phenom 8600. There's no official pricing yet but one would guess that these will be priced between the quad-core Phenoms and the dual-core Athlon 64 X2. But what price do you put on three cores? The quad-core 2.2GHz Phenom 9500 is listed at $209. On the dual-core front the 3.2GHz Athlon 64 X2 6400+ 'Black Edition' processor is listed at $178. So logically a triple-core offering should be priced somewhere in this $31 price range. That doesn't offer much scope for pricing triple-core effectively because the gap between dual and quad cores is so small. Even if we take the 2.3GHz Phenom 9600 is listed at $251, which still only leaves a price window of $73 for AMD to squeeze the triple-cores into. Maybe there's more wriggle room than this, but if there is I can't see it. So if the end price only has a few bucks then what will you go for - three or four cores?
But then you have to add Intel into the mix. The quad-core Q6600 is priced at $266, and this sweeps the floor with the quad-core Phenom. Below that you've competitively priced dual-core offerings. Given the tight gap between dual and quad core processors, it's hard to see where triple-core fits in.
But where logic ends, that's where marketing takes over. But that still leaves the question - how do you market three cores? "Better than two cores but not as good as four?" "Why have two when you can have three?" "Why pay for four cores when most of your apps will only see two at most anyway?"
I think that what AMD could do, and from a marketing point of view it could be quite effective, would be to try to brand triple-core as the new dual-core and scale back on the dual-core line up and replace it with triple-core processors. This could put Intel into a position where it would have to follow suit of risk seeing the dual-core line-up looking long in the tooth. There are problems with this approach though. Pricing, again, is one, and another factor would be how fast AMD could push triple-core Phenoms out of the door. Based on this I don't see triple-core replacing dual-core any time soon.
My guess is that triple-core Phenoms will be sold on the basis of touchy-feely fluffy marketing.
Thoughts? Where do you see triple-core fitting into the big picture?