Intel to Showcase 1GHz 'Coppermine' Pentium III

SAN FRANCISCO (01/28/2000) - Intel Corp. will present a paper at a closely watched technical conference next month in which the company will describe how it can achieve a clock speed of 1GHz from a Pentium III processor running at room temperature, an Intel spokesman said today.

Intel has demonstrated a 1GHz processor in the past using special cooling equipment. Producing a chip that can operate at that speed in real-world conditions will allow Intel to sell the part commercially for use in desktop PCs, the Intel spokesman said.

Clock speed is only one measure of a chip's performance, but along with price it is the main feature consumers look at when they choose a PC, experts have said. For that reason, Intel and arch-rival Advanced Micro Devices Inc. (AMD) are keen to be first out the trap with a 1GHz chip. Both companies have promised to reach the milestone before the end of the year, and both currently offer processors that top out at 800MHz.

The processor Intel will describe next month, at the International Solid-State Circuits Conference in San Francisco, will be a Pentium III manufactured with its advanced 0.18-micron process. Such chips were formerly codenamed Coppermine.

Figuring a way to make a processor that runs at 1GHz at room temperature is only part of the battle, noted Keith Diefendorff, a senior analyst with research and publishing firm MicroDesign Resources in Sunnyvale, California.

"Anyone who manufactures an 800MHz chip probably has a few in their lab that run at 1GHz. The challenge is whether you can manufacture enough to make it a commercial product," Diefendorff said.

Meanwhile, a new PC processor is looming nearer that will compete at the other end of the performance spectrum.

Taiwanese chipset maker Via Technologies Inc. may announce launch details for its long-awaited Joshua processor as early as next week, according to Kevin Krewell, a senior analyst with research firm MicroDesign Resources, publisher of Microprocessor Report.

Joshua is based on a processor core that Via acquired when it bought Cyrix Corp. last year and will likely debut at around 500MHz, putting it in competition with Intel's low-end Celeron processor. Joshua may be sold at prices as low as US$40 or $50, which could make it popular in unbranded, so-called "white box" PCs, Krewell said.

Via has said that it will showcase Joshua at the CeBit trade show in Germany in late February, and couldn't be reached today to comment on any launch plans for next week. Joshua is the code name for the processor, and the chip may be re-christened before its release.

Via's chip will likely carry AMD's 3DNow instructions, which are designed to boost the performance of multimedia applications, and also carry 256K bytes of performance-boosting on-chip Level 2 cache memory, Krewell said. The processor will also support Intel's P6 bus architecture, which means it will fit in the same motherboards as Intel's Socket 370 Celeron chips, making it easier for PC manufacturers to use.

Intel may have something to say about that. The chip giant withdrew Via's P6 bus license last year following a licensing spat, and has filed a complaint with the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) that seeks to prevent Via from selling products in the U.S. that use the P6 bus.

Via's chips are likely to be manufactured by National Semiconductor Corp., which has a cross-licensing arrangement with Intel, and Via will probably use that relationship to try and shield itself from Intel lawsuits, Krewell said.

The tactic is a somewhat "blatant" one, he added, and may or may not prove successful.

More information about the International Solid-State Circuits Conference, which runs Feb. 7 to 9, is on the Web at http://www.isscc.org/. Via Technologies, in Taipei, can be reached at +886-2-2218-5452, or on the Web at http://www.via.com.tw/. Intel, based in Santa Clara, California, can be contacted at +1-408-765-8080, or at http://www.intel.com/.

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