Intel will begin using a smaller, more efficient 0.18-micron process technology earlier than expected, according to the latest processor roadmap outlined to OEMs this week.
"We'll be running sample processors at 0.18 [microns] in the first half of next year," said an Intel spokesman. "We'll have systems [using the 0.18 process] for sale in the second half of next year, which is much earlier than we originally expected."
The 0.18-micron process will enable Intel to create smaller, lower-power chips or squeeze more transistors on the same-sized chips. Previously, Intel officials said to expect sample 0.18-micron processors no earlier than the second half of next year. The spokesman said the first 0.18 processor, code-named Coppermine, will be designed for both desktop and mobile PCs "and will probably be running faster than 500MHz when its launched".
Coppermine will also include the new "Katmai" multimedia instructions that Intel plans to debut in the first quarter of next year.
The move to the 0.18-micron process comes right after Intel completes its move from 0.35-micron to a 0.25-micron process. The transition happened quicker than expected, accelerating other plans. All new processors that Intel releases through the middle of next year will use the 0.25-micron process, he said.
Other changes in Intel's latest roadmap are the addition of a 366MHz version of its Celeron processor and a 300MHz version of the mobile Pentium MMX processor, both of which are due early next year.
On 24 August, Intel will launch a version of the Celeron with a 128KB integrated L2 cache. The new Celerons, previously known by the Mendocino codename, will come in 300MHz and 333MHz versions. The 366MHz version, which wasn't planned the last time Intel released a processor roadmap, will ship early next year.
The Celeron processor has been almost universally disparaged for poor performance -- although, according to Intel, it makes up about five percent of its sales. Primarily aimed at the home market, the Celeron has been facing stiff competition from AMD and Cyrix. The new Celerons, however, may be fast enough for a low-end business machine.
The difference between a Celeron with L2 cache and a regular Pentium II is the size and speed of the cache and the speed of the bus between the processor and the rest of the system. A Pentium II chip typically comes with two or four times the L2 cache as the new Celeron, although the Celeron's cache runs at the speed of the processor since it is integrated directly on the chip. The cache on the Pentium II runs at half the speed of the processor itself.
The Celeron also speaks to the rest of the system using a 66MHz bus, while the newest Pentium II chips use a 100MHz bus speed.
Other highlights in the roadmap:
A 450MHz Pentium II for the desktop, due in the next few months.
A 300MHz mobile Pentium II, due before the end of the year, and a 333MHz mobile Pentium II early next year.
A previously unplanned 300MHz mobile Pentium MMX, which Intel said was designed to make it easier for system makers to upgrade old MMX notebook designs.
A 450MHz Pentium II Xeon processor with L2 cache ranging in size from 512KB to 2MB, due in the next few months. Tanner, a Slot 2 processor running at 500MHz and featuring the Katmai instructions, will ship in the first quarter of next year.
Other Katmai 450MHz and 500MHz processors, aimed primarily at the desktop, will also ship in the first quarter.
Several future processors and chipsets were named, but not described, including the Willamette and Dixon processors and the Carmel and Banister chipsets.