October 2000 Industry Update

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Processors

Intel

As indicated on the Chipset/Motherboard page, the expected release date for the Pentium 4 is the last week of November. Earlier this year, Intel had stated that only a few hundred thousand Pentium 4 CPUs would be shipped this year. Just last week, news reports indicated that Intel was ‘shaking up’ the executive management in order to ensure a very quick ramp of the P4. An official Intel spokesperson would not discuss any specific numbers for this year, but only would state that OEMs have rapidly accepted the platform.

According to Intel’s own roadmap, the P4 is to be introduced at 1.4GHz and 1.5GHz, with a 1.7GHz being introduced early in Q1. With the apparent delay in shipping due to the i850 issue, and PC sales very slow, it would appear that Intel is in danger of building too much inventory going into Q1, creating some pricing problems. Though exact pricing seems to be difficult to pin down right now, the 1.5GHz seems certain to be introduced in the $800 range or less, with downward pressure being applied with the intro of faster speeds only a month or two later.

Intel desperately needs to get the Pentium 4 into the marketplace. The P6 core has been tweaked and pushed almost to its limit, though one more die shrink to .13u is on schedule for mid-2001. This processor, code named Tualatin, will debut at 1.26GHz.

At the very low-end, the Timna processor was officially scrapped by Intel because it is too little and too late to market. With the pricing pressures and rapid speed increases, along with the serious competition of AMDs Duron, the Timna no longer made any sense. In order to compete better against the Duron, Intel will reportedly introduce the 800MHz (100MHz bus speed) Celeron earlier than expected – possibly as early as January.

AMD

Later this month, most likely at about the same time the AMD 760 chipset is announced, the 1.2 GHz Athlon and 800MHz Duron processors will be announced. It appears unlikely that any further speed grades will be announced this year for these processor models. AMD apparently wants to focus upon price/performance rather than raw MHz, and feels that the 1.2GHz Athlon will compare very favorably with the 1.4GHz+ Pentium 4. Though releasing another speed grade this year is possible, AMD will only do this if absolutely necessary to keep the performance leadership.

One of the big advantages attributed to the Pentium 4 is its ability to ramp up in speed. Intel has claimed that if they can get the same percentage increase from the P7 (Pentium 4) core as they did from the P6 (PPro/PII/PIII), they could ramp it as high as 7 or 8 GHz! With the introduction of the new processor core later this year AMD feels that they will have some additional headroom as well. This new core, which will be used for the upcoming Mustang, Morgan and Palomino processors, will reportedly have a 1.5v core voltage, allowing AMD to push it back to 1.75v to get additional speed, if necessary later on.

Sometime between November 15 and January 15, AMD will be introducing several new processor models, all based upon this new core. This core is designed to allow the L2 cache size to be easily varied up to 2MB. Both the Palomino and Morgan will have desktop and mobile versions, with the mobile offerings including the Gemini technology for advanced power savings. At one point, this was going to be called Power-Now!, though that name has not popped up recently in discussions.

The Mustang is geared towards the high-end market now dominated by Intel’s Xeon. With the introduction of an SMP capable chipset early next year, and a large (2MB) L2 cache, AMD feels it can wrest the performance crown from Intel in this market also, eventually offering 4-way+ systems as well. Palomino will be the workstation and mainstream processor, while Morgan will supplant the Duron.

Others

The VIA/Cyrix processors are scheduled to debut this month, although one source indicated that this may not actually occur until early November. The initial speed offerings will be 500MHz and 550MHz, according to this source. Depending upon pricing and performance, this processor could be a competitor for Celeron and Duron – however it does not have a good reputation based upon early benchmark reviews.

VIA also has plans for their Samuel processor, which is based upon the IDT processor core (formerly known as WinChip). Reports have indicated that this smaller and less complicated design will debut at 1GHz+ in an attempt to give the PIII and Athlon a run for their money. This will likely not be released until sometime in 2001.

Sony has released a line of Vaio notebooks using the Transmeta Crusoe processor, which should appear in the U.S. market late this month. While there have been no independent reviews of Transmeta processors for either performance or battery life, there has been a great deal of anticipation mixed with some healthy skepticism while awaiting an actual product release. It will be interesting to see the results that should be reported very soon.


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