Strong rumours, apparently well-founded, are sloshing round the Web that Intel is about to adopt a new naming scheme to replace familiar names such as Pentium and Celeron.

Intel will not confirm the story, saying only that it cannot comment on rumours, but the story's source is said to be "familiar" with Intel's plans.

The point of the alleged plan is to emphasise performance rather than clock speeds. If Intel gets it right, purchasers should find it easier to choose a chip based on functionality, such as features for mobile use, rather than raw clock speed.

It's a big turn-round from the megahertz marketing that Intel has monopolised for years. Even the earliest x86 chips, such as the 80286, launched in 1982, were designated by clock speed. In effect, Intel is conceding what AMD has been saying for the last two years, namely that clock speed is no longer a reliable performance indicator.

It is also what Intel has been saying, indirectly, for some time, though it hasn't come through in the product names. As chip complexity has grown, clock speed becomes only one part of the performance equation. It's possible to argue that, as techniques such as parallelism and deeper pipelines grow, performance, incremented by a hundred megahertz or so at a time, is more influenced by architectural changes than by raw clock speed.

As for timing, chances are that the scheme is due to be implemented with the launch of Dothan, the 90nm process version of the Pentium 4 featuring a 2MB L2 cache, since an invitation to a briefing coincides with the denial. Dothan is due to be launched "in the next quarter" and the story's original source is reported as saying that Intel aims to get the scheme in place by the summer.

AMD is likely to be pretty pleased, especially since Intel recently also adopted 64-bit extensions for its x86 architecture, another technology pioneered by AMD.