Intel Readies Chip Onslaught

Intel has picked early January to release a truckload of new processors, industry sources say, including its first mobile Celeron chips for low-cost notebooks, and powerful Pentium II Xeon chips for workstations and servers that will sport a whopping 2MB of Level 2 cache memory. Many of the new chips will be aimed at lower-cost desktop and mobile PCs, as well as at so-called mininotebooks, an emerging class of lightweight portables expected to sell for as low as $1000.

Earlier this year Intel was late to react to the boom in demand for low cost PCs, allowing rival Advanced Micro Devices to steal some market share with its lower-priced K6-2 processors. The new chips planned for release early next year indicate that the chip giant doesn't plan to get left out in the cold again.

Getting More Mobile
The first week of January, Intel will launch a 300-MHz Pentium MMX chip for use in mobile computers, including mininotebooks. That will be followed soon after by a 233-MHz Celeron chip with 128KB of Level 2 cache, designed for mininotebook use only, the sources say. Intel spokesperson Seth Walker would not confirm the dates, saying only that the releases will come in the first quarter. Intel has also picked the first week in January to roll out mobile Celeron processors running at 266 MHz and 300 MHz, sources say, marking Intel's entry in the low-cost notebook space. The mobile Celerons are expected to carry 128KB of on-chip cache.

In the same month Intel will introduce new mobile Pentium II chips running at 333 MHz and 366 MHz, sources said. The mobile Pentium IIs will carry 256KB of on-chip Level 2 cache, helping to distinguish them from the lower-priced mobile Celeron processors.

Accelerating Celeron
Also in early January Intel will increase the speed of its fastest desktop Celeron processor from 333 MHz to 366 MHz. The Celeron family is designed for what Intel calls basic PCs, or desktops priced at about $1200 or less. As previously indicated by Intel, the chip will include 128KB of Level 2 cache. In March Intel's road map calls for the release of a 400-MHz version of Celeron for the desktop with a 66-MHz front-side bus, sources say.

The release of a Celeron processor with a 100-MHz bus will wait for the release of chips running in excess of 433 MHz, which are due later in 1999, the sources said and Walker confirmed.

Katmai Coming
Later in the first quarter, perhaps as early as February 26, Intel will roll out its long-awaited Katmai processors, which will include a set of new instructions designed to enhance the chips' multimedia capabilities. The Katmai New Instructions, or KNI, were previously dubbed MMX 2 by some analysts. A 450-MHz version of the chip will be aggressively priced at around $530--only $50 or so more than Intel's Pentium II processor running at the same speed, sources indicate. A 500-MHz version due at the same time will be priced considerably higher, likely because it will be faster than any processor available at the time from AMD, sources said.

Intel for the past 10 months has worked closely with software makers to ensure applications are available that will take full advantage of Katmai's ability to run 3D, voice-enabled and other multimedia programs. The applications are likely to include sophisticated gaming programs, videoconferencing software, and advanced Computer Aided Design applications.

Server Up
Also in early January, according to sources, Intel will release a 450-MHz version of its Pentium II Xeon processor for workstations and servers. Intel has said the chip will come with three Level 2 cache options: 512KB, 1MB and 2MB. The chips will initially support only four-CPU systems, but will work in eight-way servers when Intel unveils its Profusion chip set in late February or early March, sources say.

The release of a processor for eight-way servers will be a challenge for Intel. The chip maker initially stumbled when it released its first Xeon chips earlier this year: Designed to support four-way systems, the chips were available for use in two-processor configurations only until Intel ironed out a bug in the processor. Intel has also said it will introduce a chip for workstations and servers that will include the Katmai New Instructions, code-named Tanner. This will be the highest performance Intel architecture available to date. Due soon after the Katmai release, Tanner will be introduced at 500 MHz and initially will carry 1MB of Level 2 cache, Intel has said.

In late March or April, sources say, Intel will release a version of Tanner with 2MB of Level 2 cache that will support use in eight-way servers when coupled with the Profusion chip set.

Source: PC World


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