It's all about speed

As this week's Intel Developer Forum (IDF) Fall 2001 kicks off in San Jose, Calif., the chip maker and its technology partners will gather to reaffirm the direction of Intel-based computing.

The diverse four-day event, which runs through Aug. 30, will be the scene of several significant announcements from Intel, ranging from the first 2GHz Pentium 4 processors to the introduction of next-generation high-speed interfaces such as USB 2.0 and Serial ATA, according to Intel officials.

Updated roadmaps on the progress of Intel-based peer-to-peer computing, wireless architectures, networking technologies, Infiniband, and Intel's 64-bit Itanium processor family will be unveiled at IDF. New details surrounding Banias, a revolutionary new mobile chip expected from Intel in 2003, will also surface at IDF.

As expected, Intel used IDF to launch of its 2GHz Pentium 4 processor and cut prices on the rest of its microprocessor portfolio. The 2GHz Pentium 4 is available now, Intel said in a statement. The company also introduced a 1.9GHz Pentium 4 processor. PC vendors, including direct sellers Dell Computer Corp. and Gateway Inc., are offering systems based on Intel's new chips.

New chips also mean new prices. Although Intel had not yet published an updated price list Monday morning, the prices for the new chips suggest that prices of the existing chips will be dropped. The 2GHz Pentium 4 is replacing the 1.8GHz version as Intel's fastest chip and will be sold for the same price wholesale: US$562 each in 1,000-unit quantities. The 1.9GHz Pentium 4 is priced at $375, slightly more expensive than the $352 still listed for the 1.7GHz Pentium 4, previously Intel's second fastest.

Intel is billing the speedy new Pentium 4 desktop processors as the perfect hardware companion for the new Windows XP operating system from Microsoft.

"Windows XP is optimized for the Pentium 4," said Anand Chandrasekher, vice president of the Intel Architecture Group. Both Intel and Microsoft officials have been publicly optimistic that the combination of the Pentium 4 chip and Microsoft XP will also help to stimulate ailing PC sales.

A 2GHz Pentium 4 processor also moves Intel's Pentium III chip line one step closer to retirement.

"The desktop market by the end of this year is going to be on Pentium 4s," Chandrasekher said. "The Pentium III should be obsolete on the desktop." Chandrasekher added that long term contracts for Pentium III chips would be fulfilled.

Chandrasekher also expects Intel and fellow Arapahoe Workgroup partners Compaq Computer Corp., Dell, IBM Corp., and Microsoft Corp. to use the developer forum as a backdrop for the publication of the 1.0 specification of Arapahoe, a next-generation high-speed PCI interface.

"Our goal is to be able to publish the first spec of [Arapahoe] at IDF," Chandrasekher said.

IDF attendees will also have first grab at the final 1.0 specification of Serial ATA, another high-speed I/O interface, Chandrasekher said.

USB 2.0, the hot rod upgrade to current USB device connections, will undergo an early demonstration at IDF transferring images from a digital camera, Chandrasekher said. USB 2.0 transfers data 10 times faster than current USB 1.1 devices.

On the closing day of the developer forum, Frank Spindler, vice president of the Intel Architecture Group and general manager of the Mobile Platforms Group, will reveal additional details of Banias, the new mobile chip expected to arrive in 2003. Banias will be based on a completely new type of Intel chip architecture, according to Intel.

With "Architecting the Digital Universe" as the theme of Intel's Fall 2001 Developer's Forum, the chip maker is optimistic about the future of the microprocessor industry.

"We're going to take this opportunity to paint a vision of the future," Chandrasekher said. "We're bullish. We don't think that growth slows. We think growth continues here, and we're going to articulate how the growth continues."

(Joris Evers, an Amsterdam correspondent for the IDG News Service, an InfoWorld affiliate, contributed to this article.)

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