% fortune -ae paul murphy

"4.26" Desperation Decoded

Michael Dell, speaking at the consumer electronics show last week spent a lot of his time labouring the point that his PCs would gain performance faster than Microsoft's X360. As part of that he introduced a hot new games PC - the XPS 600 Renegade.

It looks way cool (Caution: this takes some time to download).

Here's how Kevin C. Tofel described the machine for engadget:

Dell introduced their XPS 600 Renegade during Michael Dell's keynote. You're immediately drawn to the custom painted case courtesy of Mike Lavallee from Killer Paint, but it's what inside that matters most. Fired by a factory overclocked Intel Extreme Edition running at 4.26GHz, the Renegade fully supports four graphics cards. To be more specific, those zippy cards are NVIDIA's GeForce 7800 SLI cards; two fit in the PCI-Express slots and two more are slaved from those, each with 512MB of memory. Can you say super high res at mucho frames per second? Storage is a non-issue as Dell planned ahead with one 10,000 RPM 150GB drive and two 250GB drives running at 7,200 RPM. Dell expects this custom hardware available by end of the month and we're looking at the $4,000 to $7,000 range, depending on options.

Add the new 30 inch screen Dell also announced and you could be looking at a $10K games console.

The CPU in this thing is a water cooled, factory overclocked 3.46Ghz Intel Pentium Extreme Edition Dual-Core 955 running at 4.26GHz that needs slightly more than twice the input power of Sun's eight core T2000 rack server.

Obviously I haven't had a chance to test this, but I'd be astonished if this thing isn't faster, with present software, than Microsoft's $299 X360 Xenon.

Note, however, that this is a consequence of the software, not the hardware - and Dell has to know it. The Intel CPU runs existing software on two cores in a shared socket - both of which will spend most of their time waiting for memory.

The Xenon has three integrated cores at 3.2Ghz to give it about a 10% advantage in raw cycles and roughly a 100% advantage in memory throughput, but the software needed to take advantage of that hardware just isn't there yet.

I believe that Microsoft's failure to get the software in place has created the opportunity Dell is trying to exploit - and that his decision to offer warranty support on a 23% factory overclocked Intel box underscores both Intel's failure to deliver and his desperation to prove that his company's products aren't on the way out.

Look at the future from his perspective and you can see why: Dell neither makes nor resells the Xbox 360 now, won't be invited to put its name on the IBM/Toshiba cell PC, has no reason to believe they'll be reselling Microsoft's future Xenon based PCs, and is facing an Apple threat to take over the living room.

Thus a short term holding action aimed at shoring up PC belief while they figure out how to escape from the Wintel trap they're in makes perfect sense - and describing "4.26" as the measure of their desperation does too.

Paul Murphy wrote and published The Unix Guide to Defenestration. Murphy is a 25-year veteran of the I.T. consulting industry, specializing in Unix and Unix-related management issues.