Jesse Berst: "IT's Like This..."

Intel's Pentium III launches Saturday and if you believe the hype you're a sucker... so says Jesse Berst.
Written by Jesse Berst, Contributor

All things come to those who wait.

All the benefits of faster computer chips, at least. If you want a faster, better, more powerful Pentium-based computer, the best thing you can do right now is... wait.

Just wait.

Yes, Intel is spending a bundle to launch the Pentium III, its fastest chip ever at speeds of 450 MHz. But if you chill for a few months, you'll get more speed for less money. The reason lies in Intel's historical method of rolling out processor upgrades. It brings them in at the high end. It overcharges for them as long as possible. It milks the market for people who absolutely must have more speed right now.

If you're one of those people... you know it already. You're using a high-end app like 3D visualisation or rendering and every extra megahertz saves you time and money. But if you're an ordinary professional worker, the Pentium III gives you few advantages right now. Here's why:

Later models will be much faster. In fact, Intel says it may push the Pentium III to one gigahertz by the end of the year. You'll hate yourself if you pay a premium price now, only to see your friends get much faster machines for less.

Software hasn't been optimised for the new chip yet, so you're not getting full advantage.

Computer systems haven't been tuned yet. Vendors will start by slapping a Pentium III into machines designed for older processors. The other subsystems -- memory, bus, graphics -- may not keep up. You want a system designed for the P3 from the ground up.

The chip hasn't been debugged yet. It's rare, but some Intel chips have been marred by computational errors.

The ID controversy may force changes. The growing outcry over Intel's use of electronic identification technology in the P3 may force the company to make changes. And you don't want to be stuck with an old version.

Intel's "milk-the-poor-suckers" strategy is increasingly out of step with the market. It gives competitors breathing room to chip away at the chip king's market share. It gives computer manufacturers a reason to continue using non-Intel chips. It even gives the FTC more ammunition in its ongoing antitrust investigation.

Intel hasn't figured all of that out yet. It is going to roll out the Pentium III the old-fashioned way. That means you should shop the old-fashioned way, too. As in buyer beware.

Take me to the Pentium III Special.

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