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By Carl Howe

Ars Technica notes that Intel (NASDAQ:INTC) intends to revamp its processor naming again on January 1, 2008. All we can say is, it's about time. I was never big on the whole Viiv brand that didn't appear to stand for anything other than Windows Media Center-compatible, and while the Core Duo brand worked, it got quite baroque when we started getting into Core Duo versus Core Duo 2 brands and trying to differentiate among them.

So here's some free advice for Intel: the more you change your branding, the more damage you do to those brands. Pick a naming system that can describe a wide range of products and stick with that. While the Core Duo moniker had promise, Intel's own R&D work on large numbers of cores in processors suggested it was going to fall down in the near future (what do you call a 60-core processor -- a Core Sexaginta? Yeah right).

Branding should guide and inform customers about what products best fit their needs. That means providing some differentiation among similar products and doing so consistently. Any new naming scheme that doesn't do this is only going to add to confusion rather than diminish it.

Our suggestion: segment your customers with words and differentiate with numbers. Intel actually has three lines of products: entry-level, pro-level, and server processors. Intel could do worse than to actually use similar words for its Core line: Core Home, Core Pro, and Core Server and then to follow these words with model numbers that differentiate different performance levels (e.g., 225 might be a 2-core processor with an arbitrary performance rating of 25). A similar naming effort in its mobile line such as Core Mobile Home and Core Mobile Pro would make it all consistent and easily extensible.

The longer Intel takes to straighten out its branding and naming, the harder it is for buyers to select the right product. That just lengthens sales cycles and increases costs, while tempting customers to try other brands. It's great that Intel is looking at the naming problem they face, but they should ensure they don't make it worse instead of better.