Intel lays out the road to Katmai

Intel will have all but completed the shift from the Pentium to the Pentium II by the end of 1998, and will then begin a new round of upgrades with yet another Pentium II design -- being developed under the code-name Katmai -- that will offer an enhanced MMX multimedia instruction set. Katmai CPUs are the fourth iteration of the P6 architecture, which began with the Pentium Pro. Due early in 1999, the CPUs will be available in various configurations, including one with 512KB of Level 2 (L2) cache memory.

Intel will have all but completed the shift from the Pentium to the Pentium II by the end of 1998, and will then begin a new round of upgrades with yet another Pentium II design -- being developed under the code-name Katmai -- that will offer an enhanced MMX multimedia instruction set.

Katmai CPUs are the fourth iteration of the P6 architecture, which began with the Pentium Pro.

Due early in 1999, the CPUs will be available in various configurations, including one with 512KB of Level 2 (L2) cache memory.

The devices follow a Deschutes Pentium II processor with on-board L2 cache, due in the fourth quarter of 1998, that aims at systems that sell for less than US$1,500. This, in turn, follows a case-less and cache-less Pentium II, priced at approximately $100, for systems that sell for less than $1,000.

The first Deschutes processor, a Pentium II CPU built using Intel’s 0.25-micron process, will be unveiled at the end of January or early in February, according to sources close to Intel.

The 333-MHz device, in a Slot 1 Single-Edge Cartridge, is for desktop systems.

The CPU will the be followed in April or May by 350-MHz and 400-MHz desktop parts, as well as 233-MHz and 266-MHz notebook chips in mobile module and minicartridge formats, according to sources.

At the same time, Intel will release the 440BX core-logic chipset, which will support synchronous DRAM and the Accelerated Graphics Port. The 440BX chipset will also support a 100-MHz system bus, which boosts system performance, said Nathan Brookwood, principal analyst at Dataquest, in San Jose, California.

These CPUs will give IS managers more high-performance choices, said Rob Enderle, area director at Giga Information Group, in Santa Clara, Calif.

"Expect some solid workstation-like notebooks at the high end initially," Enderle said. "This performance will move down to the volume mobile platform by year end, and value in mid- to late 1999."

In June or July of 1998, Intel will release the 350-MHz and 450-MHz Pentium II desktop CPUs in the Slot 2 configuration, sporting as much as 2MB of L2 cache on the back-side bus, running at the full speed of the processor.

Intel will simultaneously introduce the 450NX core-logic chipset, which supports up to four Slot 2 processors in high-end workstation or server applications.

The Slot 1 and Slot 2 Pentium II will get a boost to 450 MHz in the second half of the year. Also in the second half, the 440BX chipset will be enhanced with support for the IEEE-1394 FireWire interface. In the third quarter of the year, Intel will also release a 300-MHz mobile Pentium II.

According to analysts, the 333-MHz desktop CPU will be priced approximately where the 300-MHz Pentium II stands today, a little more than $700. When the faster processor is announced, the 300-MHz Pentium II will drop by in price to approximately $200, the analysts said.

Over the course of the year, Pentium II prices will drop near those of Pentium MMX chips, obsoleting the P5-generation chip.

The Pentium MMX could be out of production at the end of 1998, according to Gerry Purdy, president of Mobile Insights, in Mountain View, California.

Some observers speculate that the 120-MHz mobile Pentium MMX might survive for mininotebooks, but Purdy suggested that Windows CE (running on a StrongARM processor), which Intel now makes as part of its deal with Digital, could address this market.

"We expect Pentium MMX to stay around through the end of 1998," agreed Linley Gwennap, editor in chief of the Microprocessor Report, in Sunnyvale, California. "To eliminate Pentium MMX from its line, Intel needs to bring prices down to $100 or so," he said.

Intel also needs to ramp production of 0.25-micron parts to meet the demands of all the markets the parts aim to serve, Gwennap said.

Intel Corp., in Santa Clara, California., can be reached at http://www.intel.com/.

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