Nine new PIII flavours revealed

Intel is due to launch nine more versions of its Pentium III chip this quarter.

The chip giant is on track to add 733 and 667MHz versions of the processor, with SECC2 Package, 18 micron process technology, supporting 133MHz system bus, by the end of this year. They will come with 256KB on-Die full speed L2 Cache according to an ARN source.

These will have the same specifications as the 600EB and 533EB versions of the Coppermine family, which is due to launch on 24 October.

Sources have revealed that there will be 700, 650 and 600E versions of the PIII using a 100MHz system bus. They will have the SECC2 Package, .18 micron process technology and 256KB on-die full speed L2 Cache.

The 550E and 500E will use the FC-PGA370 package, with .25 micron process technology, 100MHz system bus and 256KB on-die full speed L2 cache.

The E, B, and EB naming conventions are to be used to distinguish the processors from current PIII Slot 1 processors.

Last week, Intel launched the 600B and 533B versions of the Pentium III, each supporting the 133MHz bus. The range is currently available at 600, 550, 533, 500 and 450MHz.

Intel also offered some performance specifics last week for the Itanium, its newly christened 64-bit processor designed for use in high-performance workstations and servers.

Intel hopes the chip, which is due to ship in systems in mid-2000, will allow it to gain a foothold in the lucrative markets for the most powerful workstations and servers, where RISC-type processors from the likes of Sun Microsystems and Hewlett-Packard currently hold sway.

Titanium is Intel's first 64-bit processor, which means it processes data in chunks 64 bits long. 32-bit processors, such as the Pentium III, process data 32 bits at a time.

Intel said the chip can execute 20 instructions per clock cycle, and has the capability to handle a theoretical 6 billion floating point operations per minute. Floating point performance is important for mathematically intensive scientific applications and multimedia.

The company hasn't disclosed any pricing information yet. Nor will it say how fast the processor will run, although clock speed is only one measure of a chip's performance.

`Intel-based machines are already far and away the market-share leader for the Internet infrastructure, but with Itanium and IA-64 we hope to move into segments that demand even more computing power,' said Ron Cully, marketing director for Intel's IA-64 division.

In its sights are powerful Internet servers used to run high-traffic Web sites, servers used in data centres and high-end workstations used for computer-aided design and video applications, Cully said.

Making a success out of Itanium won't be a walk in the park. Analysts have noted the complexity of developing a new chip architecture and producing mass quantities, and Intel already has acknowledged a handful of delays with its development of the chip.

Intel won't just be competing with established RISC vendors such as Sun: chip rival Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) also disclosed plans last week to offer its own 64-bit chip, dubbed SledgeHammer.

While the AMD chip is unlikely to be as far down the development road as Itanium, analysts point to Athlon, AMD's new desktop PC chip, as evidence that the company is capable of executing on its plans.

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