Pentium 4 launches Monday

On Monday Intel will launch its long awaited Pentium 4. And officials say the chips could reach the mass market by late 2001

Intel officials have confirmed the Pentium 4 will be released Monday and outlined plans to move the Pentium 4 into the mainstream PC market as rapidly as possible.

While the Pentium 4 will begin its life at the very high end of the desktop PC market, Intel plans to broaden its market as quickly as possible, company officials said Tuesday at a Comdex Fall 2000 news conference. The company plans to accomplish that by committing a large amount of manufacturing capacity to the new chip, by cutting prices, and by licensing its technology to third-party chip set vendors.

In a recent call with analysts, Intel said Pentium 4 shipments would begin to exceed Pentium III shipments early in 2002. However, Paul Otellini, executive vice president and general manager of Intel's Architecture Group, said he has recently set even more aggressive goals for the Pentium 4 transition. "We have an internal goal to accelerate that [crossover to Pentium 4] to late next year," Otellini said.

To ensure a smooth transition, the company plans to convert five processor fabrication plants to manufacture the Pentium 4, Intel said. In sharp contrast to the launch of its 1GHz Pentium III, Intel plans to have significant volumes of Pentium 4s available at launch. The new chips will also be available in the reseller channel by next week, officials said.

Initially, most PCs using Pentium 4 will be priced above $2,200 (around £1,520). The highest-priced Pentium 4 PCs, which will sport the richest configurations, including large hard drives, lots of Rambus Direct RAM (RDRAM) memory, and high-end graphics cards, will cost more than $3,000.

Initially, Pentium 4 PCs will require Intel's 850 chip set and RDRAM, which costs more than other memory technologies. Despite the higher cost, Otellini said, "I think you'll see very aggressive system prices. We've very happy with where they're starting, and they'll only come down." He also confirmed that RDRAM would remain Intel's memory of choice for the higher clockspeed Pentium 4 chips.

Pentium 4 pricing and performance data will become available from Intel on Monday, company officials said. However, it is expected to be aggressive when compared to chips such as the 1GHz Pentium III, which cost $990 at launch.

To drive Pentium 4 into lower cost PCs, Intel will need to pair the chip with lower-cost chip sets and different kinds of memory technologies. It is working on a low cost chipset, codenamed Brookdale, which supports 133MHz Synchronous Dynamic RAM (PC 133).

Brookdale will not ship for some time, however, and that could hamper Intel's ability to mainstream the Pentium 4. The chipset is scheduled to ship late in the third quarter or early in the second quarter of 2001, Otellini said. Intel plans a follow-on version of the chipset with support for the higher-bandwidth Double Data Rate SDRAM.

Turning to third-party chipset vendors could help Pentium 4 PCs meet its lower-cost objectives sooner. Intel has opened discussions with third-party chip set vendors that would like to release Pentium 4 chipssets with support for PC 133 or Double Data Rate SDRAM, Otellini said. "It is my understanding that there are a lot of [third party Pentium 4 chipsets] in development," he said.

With Intel's seal of approval, it is likely that some of these chip sets could ship as soon as the first quarter of 2000, analysts said after the briefing.

See Chips Central for daily hardware news, including interactive roadmaps for AMD, Intel and Transmeta.

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