Intel's Timna is targeted for even lower cost PCs

Why should cheaper PCs use ancient chips? New chips have been designed to cut costs by eliminating graphics boards and memory controller chips

Intel is looking to change to rules that govern the low-cost PC market with its forthcoming Timna chip. Timna is Intel's answer to the demand for PCs that cost even less than those available today. The chip was designed from the ground up for the sub-$600 (£375) PC market.

"With Timna, we're going to change to rules," said Paul Otellini, executive vice president and general manager of Intel's Architecture Business Group.

The way Intel intends to reduce the price of a PC is to cut the cost of its components. Although some PCs are now available at $399 and $499 (£250 and £310), Intel contends that consumers are looking to buy these low-cost machines with brand-new processors, as opposed to ageing components, such as lower clock speed Celeron chips.

The Timna chip may also find its way into "free PCs" and machines distributed to employees by companies. Ford, for example, recently announced that it will give PCs to its employees for nominal costs, and Intel is looking into doing the same for its staff, according to company officials.

Named Timna after a national park in Israel, where it is being developed, the chip will achieve lower cost through the integration of a set of features, including a processor core and Level 2 cache with a graphics engine and memory controller.

Intel says this level of integration will allow PC makers to eliminate extra components, such as graphics boards and memory controller chips, to achieve lower cost. The company says Timna may also decrease the time to market of low-cost PCs, because it will ship with Windows driver software that has already been written and tested by Intel.

"Our aim is to reduce our OEMs' cost and our cost," said Albert Yu, a senior vice president and general manager of Intel's Microprocessor Products Group. "When we ship Timna, we'll have one set of drivers. It's much easier for (PC makers)," he added.

The Timna chip, which is a version of Intel's P6 chip, will utilise the 370-pin socket. It will ship in the second half of the year with a memory controller for SDRAM (synchronous dynamic RAM). A follow-on version of the chip will be released with a memory controller for Rambus Direct RAM.

Timna isn't for everyone, however. PCs using the chip will have little or no upgradability. PC makers, for example, may release rock-bottom priced PCs with memory soldered onto the motherboard. Other PCs may allow for the addition of extra memory, although there will be no room to upgrade the graphics engine.

Users who wish to have the option of upgrading are more likely choose a system that uses Intel's forthcoming 815 chipset, which supports 133MHz SDRAM and offers an integrated graphics engine.

Intel has yet to disclose clock speeds or pricing for Timna, which will ship in the second half of the year.

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