Intel's three new CPU chips

Intel Corp. will throw a coming-out party in Palm Springs, Calif.

Intel Corp. will throw a coming-out party in Palm Springs, Calif., this week for three new chips.

For the first time, the Santa Clara, Calif., chip maker will reveal details of two new chips and provide new information on a third new -- but well-known -- chip, the Itanium, at this week's Intel Developer Forum. Along with the Itanium, Intel plans to ship a new low-cost processor, code-named Timna, and a new high-end desktop processor, code-named Willamette, in the second half of this year.

Information disclosed at the event will be relevant to consumers, Intel said, because the new chips should make possible a new class of lower-cost desktop PCs and at the same time push high-end desktops to new levels of performance. Timna will be aimed at the value-PC market. PCs using it could cost as little at $399.

Willamette, on the other hand, is designed for speed. It will appear in high-end PCs by the end of the year, and it will be paired with a new chip set, code-named Tehama, which should offer a faster system bus and support for Rambus memory, known as RDRAM. Offering a faster bus and utilizing Rambus memory, which is said to be faster than today's synchronous dynamic RAM, will help the chip set deliver an overall system performance increase compared with the Pentium III and its 440BX or 820 chip sets.

Intel will also highlight its Itanium processor. The 64-bit processor for high-end workstations and servers will be the subject of many discussions on software. Software developers need to port their applications to gain maximum performance with the new chip.

Lots to explain
The developer forum comes at a difficult time in Intel's history. The company has been faced with new competition from Advanced Micro Devices Inc. and, at the same time, product delays and shortages, which, despite record shipments, have strained relations with PC manufacturers such as Gateway Inc. and Dell Corp. Gateway blasted Intel in January, claiming shortages of certain chips hurt the PC maker's fourth-quarter earnings.

Dell Computer Corp. also fingered Intel for lost business in the fourth quarter, citing shortages of the company's 450MHz and 800MHz Pentium III, along with a delay in the shipment of Intel's 820 chip set, as the cause of $300 million in lost business.

However, Dell and Gateway now say that lead times for the 800MHz Pentium III chip are down from as many as 30 days in January to eight to 10 days. The chip, they say, is in greater supply now than in previous weeks.

With the wait for AMD's 800MHz Athlon now only three to five days from Gateway, some customers have turned to that option. This newfound competition is shaping up to be Intel's biggest challenges for 2000, besides getting its three new chips out the door. It's not a one-horse race anymore when it comes to consumers evaluating a new PC.

And AMD will be in Palm Springs, as well. The company, which launched its 850MHz Athlon last Friday, will be meeting with developers and journalists to discuss the future of its Athlon chip. The Athlon is well along on the path to 1GHz, and AMD has demonstrated a 1.1GHz version of the chip.

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