Intel may be opening a can of worms with a pilot program that asks consumers to pay an extra $50 to make a processor, hobbled by design, whole again.
So, here's the deal. Intel is conducting a retail pilot program that introduces desktop PCs with an Intel Pentium G6951 processor that has certain features turned off--namely, part of the cache memory and a function called hyper-threading. Cache memory is critical, very-high-speed memory built into the chip, while hyper-threading allows a processor to use, on some applications, virtual cores, essentially doubling the number of physical processing cores.
If consumers decide (based on an in-store offer from Intel) that they want the extra performance, they pay $50 to unlock those features by either having the retailer (Best Buy, in this case), do the upgrade or downloading code by themselves.
What's the can of worms? In addition to possibly irritating customers by notifying them that they have a hobbled chip, the program spotlights Intel's, otherwise perfectly legitimate, processor marketing strategy. (And I would submit that it doesn't matter how inexpensive the hobbled pilot program processor is, the scheme will still get under consumer's skins.)
First, some background. Though Intel brands the chip as a Pentium (a brand originally introduced back in the early 1990s), certain Pentium processors are in fact based on a cutting-edge design called Westmere, a chip package that contains a 32-nanometer processor core and a 45-nanometer graphics chip.
And the Westmere line includes Intel's best-selling Core i7, i5, and i3 processors. An imperfect though instructive analogy can be made between the pilot program and the Core i3.… Read more