AMD launches K6-III today

When Intel Corp. begins shipping its Pentium III processor this week, it will face renewed competition from Advanced Micro Devices Inc., which will announce its K6-III processor today.

The AMD chip has a new three-level cache design, which integrates 256KB of Level 2 cache and includes an additional external 512KB of Level 3 cache, both of which increase performance. The chip will support up to 2MB of Level 3 cache.

The 400MHz K6-III, priced at $284 (£173), will begin shipping this month. A 450MHz version, priced at $476, will be available next month, said AMD officials. Also due this month is a 450MHz K6-2 chip; the Californian company's next-generation K-7 chip is slated for release at the end of the second quarter.

But Intel is trying to raise the bar. At its Developer Forum in Palm Springs, California this week, Intel executives will provide an update on the company's IA-64 technology, shedding some light on features planned for the 64-bit architecture as well as fielding a panel of OEM executives to discuss plans for delivering IA-64-based systems. Intel's latest projected ship date for Merced is the middle of next year.

Last week at its Pentium III Preview Day in the US, Intel and its partners exhibited the Pentium III's 70 new streaming single-instruction, multiple-data instructions and its revamped floating-point architecture, which improve the processing of multimedia such as three-dimensional graphics and speech recognition.

The Pentium III for desktop PCs will come in 450MHz and 500MHz clock speeds initially, with a 550MHz version due in the second quarter. Intel's 450MHz and 500MHz Pentium III Xeon processors for workstations and servers will be announced next month, said Craig Barrett, the company's president and CEO. A 550MHz Pentium III Xeon will follow.

PC makers, including Hewlett-Packard Co., IBM, Dell Computer Corp. and NEC Computer Systems Division, plan to ship new Pentium III desktops beginning at month's end. System prices are expected to range between $1,500 and $2,000.