700MHz PIII's to ship in Oct, as Merced wows PC makers

What does fishing have to do with building a better Internet?

Plenty, according to Craig Barrett, Intel Corp.'s CEO, who spends Friday nights surfing the Web to find out the conditions at his favorite Montana fishing spots.

Barrett put down the fly rod to deliver the Intel Developers Forum opening keynote address to some 2,600 developers here on Tuesday -- using his online fishing experiences to illustrate how people will use the Internet as an information source in the future. But, he said, as the number of Internet users and the uses for the medium increase, so will the challenges of building and maintaining networks.

Barrett issued a call to arms to developers to work together to help build the infrastructure to support its vision of billions of connected computers. The connected computers will serve purposes ranging from helping find the best fishing holes to e-commerce to business-to-business communications.

During his speech, Barrett outlined a number of Intel initiatives and building blocks that will support the billions of connected computers vision. The building blocks include Intel's first effort at a 64-bit processor, code-named Merced.

Barrett announced that Intel has delivered samples of the chip to PC makers. He also said that Intel has booted the 64-bit variant of Windows and Linux so far on the sample processors. Intel also demonstrated a working version of a Merced chip in a workstation, rendering graphics, among other things. "We're happy with the number of OEMs we have signed up," he said after the speech. Despite delays and some uncertainties created by Hewlett-Packard Co., "Merced is a product. It was always meant to be a product."

Besides delivering building blocks, such as Merced, Intel sees many other areas that need to be addressed to support the billions of connected computers. Those areas include network bandwidth and the delivery of high-speed Internet access, server capacity, and PC ease of use, among other things. "Our collective charge is to make sure the technology is there ... and transparent to end users," he said to the assembled ranks of developers. "None of (the areas that need to be addressed) get to be solved by one company."

One example, given by Barrett as an architecture developed as an open standard by a number of companies, including Intel and Microsoft Corp., is universal serial bus. USB was developed as a technology to allow users to easily connect peripheral devices to PCs. "The only problem is that it took about five years before we got mass production of that (technology)," he said.

Server I/O will be one of the next such industry-wide efforts. Two groups are currently developing different approaches to server I/O, which will help boost the amount of data a server can process. One camp is called Future I/O. It's backed by Hewlett-Packard Co. and IBM. The other, Next Generation I/O, is backed by Intel, among others. The two groups will announce today that they have plans to merge the technologies and deploy a single next-generation technology for server I/O in 2001, Barrett said. "Let's hope it gets out there faster than USB," he said.

One area where the industry is making more progress is in the design of easier to use PCs. The Easy PC Initiative, which was announced at the Spring IDF last February, will bear fruit this week as it shows off designs for new, easier to use PCs, due later in the year.

Barrett recounted trying for over an hour to install a new screensaver on his wife's notebook computer and fiddling for two hours with a new digital camera, before giving up on installing it. "This stuff is not user friendly," he said. "We get a failing grade in that aspect. We need to do a lot better."

The first round of easy to use PCs will appear later in the year and early in 2000, he said. They will be PCs that build on technology and designs that are available today, but will use USB to connect peripherals instead of other ports. New easier to user PCs include the NEC Packard Bell Z1 computer and a new model due from AST Computer, he said.

Barrett also took a seat on "Ottoman PC," one of the concept Easy PCs being demonstrated at the Intel Developers Forum, during this part of his keynote. The PC, shaped like an Ottoman, came complete with a leopard skin pattern cushion. The cushion folds up to reveal a display and keyboard. The concept Ottoman PC may never come to market but ones like it -- including a kitchen PC, an entertainment PC and a connected home PC -- may debut in the second round of easy to use PCs.

While Barrett extolled the virtue of Easy PC, Pat Gelsinger, vice president and general manager of Intel's Desktop Products Group, demonstrated a 800MHz processor combined with Intel's forthcoming 820 chip set. The 800MHz chip, likely a Pentium III based on Intel's Coppermine design, was based on Intel's 0.18 micron manufacturing process, he said. Coppermine is the code-name for a Pentium III chip build on the 0.18 micron process.

Barrett said the Pentium III Coppermine chip will debut in October at speeds as high as 700MHz. A 667MHz version is also expected, Gelsinger said. Gelsinger also said Rambus Direct RAM, a new high-bandwidth memory technology that will work with the 820 chip set, is on schedule for delivery this quarter. He said 14 products from five suppliers had already been validated.