Intel to preview new workstation, server chip

Intel will show off Foster, the Pentium 4 chip designed for workstations and servers, for the first time next week at the National Association of Broadcasters conference in Las Vegas.

Intel will show off Foster, the Pentium 4 chip designed for workstations and servers, for the first time next week at the National Association of Broadcasters conference in Las Vegas.

The Santa Clara, Calif.-based chipmaker will demonstrate two-processor workstations running the new chip, which will hit the market commercially later this quarter, a company representative said. Foster will be the first member of the Xeon chip family to be based on the Pentium 4. Current Xeons are based on the Pentium III.

The chip will clock in at 1.4GHz or faster and, like other Xeon chips, will feature some enhancements for the workstation market. Workstations featuring the chip will also contain Intel's 860 chipset and Rambus memory.

The premiere of the chip at the NAB conference is part of Intel's effort to capture more of the media market. Once dominated by Unix stalwarts such as Silicon Graphics, the digital entertainment market has gravitated toward generally less expensive Intel-based workstations as performance has improved.

Overall, Intel is largely concentrating on five workstation market segments, according to a representative: manufacturing, digital media, finance, retail and telecommunications.

Foster also will likely serve an important role in helping the company improve its bottom line. Although Intel ships far more Pentiums, Xeons typically sell for more than their desktop equivalents and, as a result, carry heftier profit margins.

A 1GHz Pentium III Xeon, for instance, sells for $425 each in quantities of 1,000. By contrast, a standard 1GHz Pentium III sells for $225.

Functionally, however, the two chips aren't radically different and cost about the same to produce, analysts have noted. Some Xeon chips for servers contain more cache memory than their desktop equivalents, but these cost even more.

Intel also faces almost no competition from rival Advanced Micro Devices in the workstation and server market, although this could begin to change toward the end of the year, when AMD comes out with Athlon chips for servers and workstations.

Slow Xeon sales also contributed to the company's decline in revenue and profit in the first quarter of this year. Server chip sales dropped drastically in the first three months, leading to a lower overall average selling price for chips, the company said. Most Xeons are incorporated into servers.

Initially, the chip will work only in one- and two-processor machines. Later in the year, chipsets will emerge that will let PC makers create four- and eight-processor servers.