Low-key Pentium III makes debut

As expected, Intel Corp. on Monday officially trotted out the Pentium III, its next-generation processor for desktop PCs.

Although some PC users quibbled about the lack of creativity in the announcement, Intel chose to continue using the Pentium brand name because of its wide recognition, said company officials in Santa Clara, California.

The Pentium III, which will begin at 450MHz and 500MHz, is expected to raise the bar on several fronts, including raw clock speed, graphics, Internet performance and security, said spokesman Seth Walker. The chip is expected to ship in late February, at which point a bevy of OEMs will announce systems based on the chip. Compaq Computer Corp., announced it will support the Pentium III across a number of its platforms, including DeskPro desktops. A host of system hardware and software developers are also lining up to announce products optimised for a set of 70 instructions included in the new chip.

These instructions, known by the code-name Katmai New Instructions, are aimed at improving graphics processing. In addition, the instructions will help enhance the performance of video, audio and technologies such as speech recognition, according to Intel.

Although the Pentium III's performance will better that of the Pentium II, the chip will start at about the same price, sources said. A 450MHz Pentium III is expected to sell for about $580. Currently, the 450MHz Pentium II sells for $562. The 500MHz Pentium III will start at about $825, sources said. By April, the Pentium III is expected to fall in price to about $445 for the 450MHz and $680 for the 500MHz, sources said.

The company today also officially debuted the Pentium III Xeon chip for next-generation workstations and servers. It had been known previously by the code name Tanner.

The Pentium III road map calls for a shift from Intel's .25 micron process technology to .18 micron, known by the code name Coppermine, in the second half of this year. The transition will boost Pentium III speeds to 600MHz and above.

Also in the second half of the year, Intel will release a mobile version of the Pentium III for notebook PCs that is expected to run at 600MHz and above, sources said.

Take me to the Katmai special.

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