When will Intel's Coppermine debut?

Who ever thought the processor market could be democratic or that a product delay could lead to a vote? But that's just what recently happened after Intel Corp. delayed the next version of Coppermine.

Coppermine is the code-name for Pentium III processors that will be made using Intel's 0.18 micron manufacturing process. The design will allow for several performance improvements for the Pentium III, including integrated Level 2 cache for desktop versions of the chip, lower power consumption for versions that go in portables, and cooler thermals for small form factor PCs.

The manufacturing process will also allow Intel to push the Pentium III to higher clock speeds on Coppermine, which was originally slated for a September introduction. Shortly after the Coppermine delay, announced last June, Intel needed to select a new launch date or dates for Coppermine processors. It was undecided as to whether it should introduce Coppermine, a design that will result in a multitude of new chips for desktops, notebooks and servers, separately or all at once in a big blowout launch. So Intel took a poll.

It asked customers, in this case OEMs, if they'd like to release products in the order they were ready or all at once. For example, the mobile Pentium III design at the time was farther along than that of the desktop Pentium III Coppermine chip. Separate product launches, however, would cause a compression of OEMs' product design and validation schedules.

"Word came back that they wouldn't be ready [for an earlier launch]" said Intel spokesman Howard High. "The choice was either to go without them or to adjust [the launch date] to where the majority of them would be ready with product." Intel traditionally crafts its product launches so that when chips are announced, OEMs are ready or nearly ready to go with PCs built around them. At this point, "We're leaning towards togetherness ... an all Coppermine introduction. And to get it all out there by Comdex," High said.

So Intel, per the request of its OEMs, will pull together four different individual processor launches based on the Coppermine Pentium III design into a single launch day in late October or early November.

On the desktop, Coppermine will produce 600MHz and faster Pentium III chips. Sources have tossed around 667MHz and 700MHz as possible speeds. It will also allow for new packaging that returns to a socket for small form factor PCs. This packaging, called "flip chip," will debut at about 500MHz.

Mobile Pentium IIIs using the Coppermine design will start at speeds as high as 500MHz. Sources said Intel will offer 400MHz and 450MHz mobile Pentium III chips as well. A 600MHz mobile Pentium III will be out in first quarter of 2000, sources said. For workstations and servers, Coppermine-based Pentium IIIs will also come out at 600MHz and faster, likely closely following the speeds at which desktop Pentium III chips will run.

With the Coppermine chips shipping in November, instead of September, as was originally intended Intel sees the large corporate customers continuing to buy products based on the current generation of 450MHz to 600MHz Pentium III processors, coupled with its 440BX chip set.

While consumers, small and medium businesses may adopt Coppermine more quickly, Intel sees corporations, which make up a large portion of its business, waiting until the first quarter to switch over to the new design. That doesn't mean they won't buy hardware. However, "most of their buying will be in what they've speced out now," High said.

Meanwhile, Intel is planning a late September launch of Coppermine chipsets, including the 820 and 810E. Intel officials deny that the new launch date represents another delay in the shipping of the Pentium III. OEMs, however, said yesterday that the chip was has been delayed by about a month from September to October or early November.

Take me to the Pentium III Special.