MEDIA: Media Watch - Intel regains 'speed king' title with Pentium 4 launch

Late last month, Intel launched its Pentium 4 microprocessor chip.

Late last month, Intel launched its Pentium 4 microprocessor chip.

Late last month, Intel launched its Pentium 4 microprocessor chip.

Although the chip has arrived too late to be a big holiday seller, the launch was still important to the company. As the Austin American-Statesman (November 20) observed: 'This introduction is more about rebuilding leadership than provoking a sudden surge in chip sales.' An analyst supported that view, telling the newspaper: 'Image is crucial in this game, and Intel's image has been kicked around for a year.'

In analyzing preliminary coverage of the launch, CARMA International found that the media latched on to two distinct aspects of the Pentium 4. First, Intel promoted the chip as offering better performance for multimedia work. Numerous articles outlined situations in which the Pentium 4 would be useful: creating MP3s, editing audio and video files from the Internet, and high-performance gaming.

The Associated Press (November 17) reported: 'Intel says the new chips are designed for where the Internet is going - a world in which consumers are increasingly using their computers to download songs from Napster, to edit videos from digital camcorders and to play games that have more and more sophisticated graphics.'

The second most frequently described characteristic of the new chip was its speed - championed as the fastest ever. In regard to the Pentium 4's speed, Intel shared the coverage with comparisons to up-and-coming rival Advanced Micro Devices (AMD), whose Athlon chip took last year's title of the fastest chip on the market. The Wall Street Journal (November 17) described the speed title as 'mostly a battle for bragging rights' while the Sacramento Bee (November 20) added: 'The winner of the speed war can gain a PR edge that can translate into sales at all price points.'

The Pentium 4 was more often than not portrayed as a complete redesign over Intel's previous chips. PC Magazine's Nick Stam told CNNfn (November 20): 'The micro architecture is a quantum jump forward.' There were only a few dissenting views that the Pentium 4 offered only incremental changes.

As mentioned, Intel's chief rival, AMD, figured prominently in the reports about the launch of the Pentium 4. A number of articles noted that competition from AMD was responsible for pressuring Intel to make its chips faster and cheaper. Memphis' Commercial Appeal (November 19) published a quote from an industry analyst: 'These firms upstage each other every other year. For now, this is Intel's time, and we're waiting for AMD to respond.'

Reports noted that, in the short term, the Pentium 4 would only be available in the most expensive, high-end PCs - perhaps only 5% of the market.

This, combined with the fact that the chip was designed for multimedia use, led to suggestions that the average user does not need as much speed as the Pentium 4 offers. Fortune (November 27) wrote that, for the average user, 'the P4 is overkill.'

As for whether users need to rush out and get the fastest chip on the market, media reports suggest that may depend on what you need your computer to do. But for Intel, the Pentium 4 launch means it has regained the title of 'speed king' and the public relations bragging rights that go along with it.

- Evaluation and analysis by CARMA International. Media Watch can be found at

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