1GHz processors trickle into Europe

Despite all the gigahertz hype, most top-tier manufacturers seem in no hurry to ship the new machines to European consumers

PCs based on the brand-spanking-new 1GHz processors from Intel and AMD are beginning to appear -- but don't count on being able to easily get your hands on one if you live outside the US.

Much hype has been generated in the media and by Intel and AMD themselves in the run up to the 1,000MHz mark, with a high point perhaps being rival demonstrations of 1GHz+ machines by both companies at last month's Intel Developer Forum in Palm Springs, California.

But now that the processors are actually available, most top-tier manufacturers appear in no hurry to introduce the super-fast machines in Europe, the middle-east and Africa, the area affectionately known as EMEA. Compaq, for one, is set to ship an AMD Athlon-based machine to US customers soon, but says EMEA customers will get them in July at the earliest.

"Supplies [of the chips] are limited," said Compaq spokesman Mark Schlaffer in a statement Thursday. "We are evaluating when the 1GHz product will be available in EMEA. The earliest will be in July, depending on product availability and total product offering."

Are supplies from AMD limited? The chip maker waffles a bit on that account; the official line is that "high performance" Athlons, meaning 900MHz and faster, will be available in quantities of "hundreds of thousands" as of the second quarter, and that a "significant proportion" of those will be 1GHz machines.

So, uh... what does that mean, exactly? "It's a real product, not something we've cobbled together for PR purposes," insisted an AMD spokesman. "It's not like Intel where we've got 29 [chips] or something."

He pointed out that Compaq historically has taken at least a quarter to introduce new US products to the UK, and that Gateway, the other tier-one OEM to have announced an Athlon-based 1GHz product, hasn't hesitated in introducing a UK 1GHz product.

Gateway will probably be the first industry-leading company to deliver the new machines to European consumers. Gateway announced a 1GHz product last Tuesday, the day of the new Athlon's launch, and will probably be shipping products this month.

AMD -- unlike Intel -- says it is already shipping 1GHz chips to UK-based manufacturers such as Evesham Micros and Mesh. Evesham plans to ship machines early next month, but reports it only has one processor on hand at the moment.

Whither Intel? The dominant chipmaker freely admits its 1GHz Pentium III processors are available in "limited quantities", and makes it clear those quantities are going straight to the US market for the time being.

"The initial focus is on the enthusiast, and the US market is seen as the largest enthusiast market for these types of machines," said Intel spokesman Graham Palmer. "We will sell to manufacturers, and it's their choice who to sell their systems to. It's not inconceivable they will sell in Europe, but we are aiming to be shipping worldwide in Q3 of this year."

For Intel limiting a chip rollout to one country is something of a departure, which Intel attributes to the intense interest and demand for the 1GHz processor. The move could also be seen to underscore exactly how limited Intel's 1GHz introduction is.

"A worldwide rollout has been the way we've gone in the past, but we're doing it this way because volumes are limited," said Palmer.

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