Pentium 'Classic' in short supply

The non-MMX Pentium 'Classic' is becoming as rare as hen's teeth and some PC vendors aren't too happy about the shortage.

Even though Intel is keen to move users quickly to MMX, some big buyers such as government, education and defence who commit to purchasing on very long evaluation cycles still demand chips that consumers have left behind. PC makers say they are struggling to come up with the necessary volumes for these customers.

"The classic Pentium is very difficult to get," said a spokesman for a UK vendor who requested anonymity. "It's a pain. When someone puts a roadmap in front of you with Pentium on and then it's not there in the next roadmap, it's disappointing."

"We stopped manufacturing Pentium classic a few weeks ago and are living off inventory," confirmed Chris Hogg, marketing development manager for northern Europe at Intel. "You're probably looking at us offering an MMX-only line by October 1. MMX offers more performance at the same price. The move is market-driven, like Jaguar switching production from the XJS to the XK8."

Hogg disputed that vendors hadn't had fair warning. "We haven't reneged on any commitments to customers. There may have been changes to market plans but that happens regularly. It's a business where change is the one constant."

He added that the Pentium would continue to be offered for specialist applications by Intel's embedded product group.

Demtere Cheras, systems director at UK PC vendor Elonex which sells heavily into defence and local government sectors, said he was nonplussed by the death of the vanilla Pentium. "For certain products it might be an issue but I think it's generally a positive move and people should move on."