Willamette Update

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Another Funny Name From Intel

The Willamette is the development code name for Intel’s next generation 32-bit x86 processor, whose official introduction is expected next month. Marketed under the name Pentium 4, this new processor will incorporate an entirely new microarchitecture. It represents the first major overhaul to Intel’s x86 product line since they introduced the highly successful ‘P6’ core in the Pentium Pro in 1995. Partial disclosure by Intel so far reveals that the new design incorporates several major innovations never seen before in a commercial microprocessor. These include the use of a trace cache and arithmetic logic units (ALU) operating at twice the processor clock rate. I examined these two defining features of Willamette as well as speculated about their implementation in What’s Up With Willamette? (Part 2), a Silicon Insider article from earlier this year.

The obligatory strip tease continues and at the Intel Developer Forum (IDF) last month some more details emerged that shed important new light on the operational characteristics of the Willamette. The event was characterized by the traditional marketing hype that accompanies an approaching major product release by Intel. The high point (or low point depending on your point of view) of the dog and pony show was the announcement of the name of the new generation x86 core. Apparently the same Santa Clara marketing focus group that liked the strength and reliability implied by ‘Itanium’ also like the sound of ‘NetBurst’. Who wouldn’t want a processor whose name implied a fast Internet connection? But if Intel marketing was aware of some of the colorful variants of ‘Netscape’ that computer users sometimes mutter when their browser crashes, perhaps they might have chosen another name for their new x86 core.

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