3DNow! Accelerates Intel Chips Too!

Traditionally, every July the public is provided a glimpse of the Intel processor roadmap. This information has always been provided to OEMs on a quarterly basis, and for the last 3 years or so to Intel Product Dealers as well, and usually under an NDA. In a move that has been unusual until now, Intel decided several months ago to post the roadmap on their website for all to see. This has allowed those in the industry who are paying attention to watch how Intel tweaks their product line based upon the market trends. The two tables below show the officially published roadmaps for the past 2 years, as provided to OEMs and Intel authorized dealers.

This first table, showing the roadmaps for 1997, show the typical timeframe that Intel introduces new processors. Each quarter, the usual trend is for one or two of their slowest processors to be discontinued, and perhaps one or two are introduced at the high end. The normal life-cycle is that a processor introduced at the top takes about 1 year to drop to the low-end, where it stays for perhaps another half year before being discontinued.

You may notice that Intel redefined their market segments from Mid-year to the end of the year. This caused the PII 233MHz to appear to ‘jump’ into the middle market segment for Q1 ’98 for the Year-end roadmap. This table indicates that while Intel recognized the sub-$1000 market had reared it’s ugly head, they had not yet recognized the AMD threat. Notice that the Celeron is not even on this roadmap.

Intel 1998 Roadmap Comparison
Mid-Year ’97 Roadmap Year-End ’97 Roadmap
Mkt Segment Processor Mkt Segment Processor
Q3 ’97 Entry (<$1.5K) P54C 166-200MHz, P55C 166MHz
Mainstream ($1.5K – 2.5K) P55C 200-233MHz, P6 180-200MHz
Performance (>$2.5K) PII 233-300MHz
Q4 ’97 Entry (<$1.5K) P54C 200MHz, P55C 166MHz
Mainstream ($1.5K – 2.5K) P55C 200-233MHz, P6 180-200MHz, PII 233MHz
Performance (>$2.5K) PII 266-300MHz
Q1 ’98 Entry (<$1.5K) P55C 166-233MHz, PII 233MHz Basic (<$1.2K) P55C 166-233MHz
Mainstream ($1.5K – 2.5K) P6 180-200MHz, PII 266MHz Performance ($1.2K – 2.5K) PII 233-300MHz
Performance (>$2.5K) PII 300-333MHz Professional (>$2.5K) PII 333MHZ
Q2 ’98 Entry (<$1.5K) P55C 200-233MHz, PII 233-266MHz Basic (<$1.2K) P55C 200-233MHz
Mainstream ($1.5K – 2.5K) PII 300-333MHz Performance ($1.2K – 2.5K) PII 233-350MHz
Performance (>$2.5K) PII 350-400MHz Professional (>$2.5K) PII 400MHz
Q3 ’98 Basic (<$1.2K) P55C 233MHz, PII 233-300MHz
Performance ($1.2K – 2.5K) PII 333-400MHz
Professional (>$2.5K) PII 450MHz
Q4 ’98 Basic (<$1.2K) Celeron 233-266MHZ, PII 233-333MHz
Performance ($1.2K – 2.5K) PII 350-450MHz
Professional (>$2.5K) PII 450MHz

In the past, Intel has not had to make more than minor adjustments to the roadmap, as there has been very little competition to push them along. This year, that has all changed. At the Winter 1998 IPD meeting, Intel told vendors to brace for a blood bath at the low-end because the sub-$1000 PC market was here to stay, and competition was going to get fierce. This was the first indication that Intel had recognized the threat. In fact, Intel first hinted at the Celeron in mid-Q1 ’98, referring to them in the official roadmap with the term “Basic PC processors using Pentium II Technology”

This next table is the 1998 roadmap comparison. Though it was updated only a month ago, it is already out of date due to some recent announcements. Of particular interest is the rapid acceleration of the Celeron processors, and the rapid discontinuance of the low-end Pentium II line. As can be seen by this table, the Celeron 400 was originally intended to be released in Q3 ’99 with a 100MHz bus speed, but has now been moved back. Intel now says that the Celeron 400 and 433 processors will be 66MHz processors, and they will not have a 100MHz version until the Pentium II runs on the 133MHz bus.

One striking difference in this roadmap from all prior ones is that this is the first time Intel has introduced a processor *at the low end!*. In addition, the move of processors from the top to bottom is happening earlier – 3 quarters instead of four. These processors are also being discontinued more quickly, at an average of 5 quarters instead of 6.

Intel 1998 Roadmap Comparison
Mid-Year ’98 Roadmap Year-End ’98 Roadmap
Mkt Segment Processor Mkt Segment Processor
Q3 ’98 Basic (<$1.2K) Celeron 266-300, PII 233-300
Performance ($1.2K – 2.5K) PII 333-400MHz
Professional (>$2.5K) PII 450MHz
Q4 ’98 Basic (<$1.2K) Celeron 266-300, Celeron 300A-333, PII 233-333 Basic (<$1.2K) Celeron 300A-333MHz, PII 333MHZ
Performance ($1.2K – 2.5K) PII 350-450MHz Performance ($1.2K – 2.5K) PII 350-450MHz
Professional (>$2.5K) PII 450MHZ Professional (>$2.5K) PII 450MHz
Q1 ’99 Basic (<$1.2K) Celeron 300A-366MHz, PII 333MHZ Basic (<$1.2K) Celeron 333-366MHz
Performance ($1.2K – 2.5K) PII 350-450MHz Performance ($1.2K – 2.5K) PII 350-450MHz
Professional (>$2.5K) PII 450MHz Professional (>$2.5K) PII 450MHz
Q2 ’99 Basic (<$1.2K) Celeron 300A-366MHz, PII 333MHZ Basic (<$1.2K) Celeron 333-400MHz
Performance ($1.2K – 2.5K) PII 350-450MHz, Katmai 450MHz Performance ($1.2K – 2.5K) PII 400-500MHz, Katmai 450MHz
Professional (>$2.5K) Katmai 500MHz Professional (>$2.5K) Katmai 500MHz

These changes have obviously been forced upon Intel by AMD’s rapid advancements and aggressive pricing. It appears that Intel is having a little trouble adjusting to the level of competition that AMD has brought on, though it doesn’t seem likely that Intel will stay back on their heels for long. In fact, what is not shown in the official roadmap yet is the announcement made this week that the Celeron 400 will be released in January instead of Q2, indicating that Intel is responding more rapidly to the AMD threat.

The success of the K6 and K6-2 processors has been nothing short of phenomenal. When you consider coming out of Q3 1997, Intel owned over 90% of the total PC processor market, with Cyrix and AMD fighting for the crumbs left behind. Cyrix was estimated to have 5% of the market, which left AMD with a paltry 4% or less. With the introduction of the K6-233, and some major OEMs breaking the $1000 barrier for PCs during the Christmas of 1997, AMD made some impressive gains in the market. Intel’s market share was estimated to have dropped over 8% in just a few months, forcing the decision to release a cacheless Pentium II.

By July of 1998, Intel had lost even more of the market because of the Celeron debacle, and as a result of the resounding success of the K6-2 and Super 7 motherboards. Today, market share estimates for Intel range from the high 70s to low 80s in percentage, and in the middle teens for AMD (12% to 18%). In the retail market, most of the major OEMs are selling K6 and K6-2 based systems, bringing AMD’s share of that market almost on par with Intel’s. This has obviously caused some concern for Intel, and it does not appear that they have a good solution for it yet.

Obviously, the big winner in this war is the customer. Until recently, every PC component had dropped significantly in price except for the processor and the operating system. It is this processor price war that has allowed OEMs to now offer fully functional computers for as low as $500. Even the die-hard Intel fanatics must give thanks to AMD for driving the costs down this quickly.


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