Intel in 1999 – Mother Shipton beckons

Future will see pricing graph drop and clock graph rise

There’s a Sanskrit word called samsara, highjacked by perfume company Guerlain for smelly stuff, which is richly expressive of the nature of chip giant Intel. The word is made up of two parts, sam which means “together” and sara which means flowing, so expressing the idea of this world being a ceaseless round of movement. At The Register we’ve attempted to cover future developments throughout 1998 so thought it worthwhile to outline Intel’s ceaseless movements, its corporate samsara, for next year.

Entry Level PCs

Day four of 1999 opens with Intel’s introduction of 366MHz and 400MHz Celeron chips using a 66MHz front side bus (FSB). Both will have a Mendocino core and will be followed later in the year by higher speed Celerons as Intel begins to move out its old Pentium II line in the wake of Katmai-Pentium III (see below). The company has still not decided whether or not to introduce a 100MHz FSB for the Celeron. Marketing considerations weigh against its introduction at any early stage. The company will choose the occasion to cut prices on its previous Celeron chips to a price which means they will rapidly enter the Chip Gulag (i.e. disappear). Intel will rapidly move its channel and its OEMs to the 370-Socket motherboard.

It now has support for the cut down board from a reasonable number of Taiwanese manufacturers. Our information is that Rise, with its partner Acer, may attempt to compete with Intel on the 370-Socket front. Intel is faced with increasing competition from AMD, Cyrix and other smaller imps of chipness at the low end. It doesn’t take Mother Shipton to predict that it will continue to fight what it considers the good fight and continue its slash and burn policy at the entry level. AMD has said it will resist this market pressure in 1999.

Katmai-Pentium IIIs And what it means for Pentium IIs…

Our information is that Intel will use the occasion of the Superbowl game to announce the arrival of the Pentium III. While Intel still remains schtum on the name, that does not matter quite as much as its significance in the market place. The formal launch of the Katmai-Pentium III is on the 28 February, although it will be no surprise to us here at The Register if Intel attempts once more to steal a march on the competition by doing it all a bit earlier. Katmai-Pentium III will initiatially come in 450MHz and 500MHz versions, and although the initial 1000 prices are supposed to be $530 and $760 respectively, it is not outside the bounds of reason if Intel cuts these prices pre-launch, to give Katmai-Pentium III an extra boost and in an attempt to scupper its rival AMD, which is introducing its K6-3 (Sharptooth) at the same time. During the year, Intel will introduce faster versions of the Katmai-Pentium III, and this means a heap of price cutting on the Pentium II family, which is nearing the Chip Gulag. It will demonstrate its evil intentions on the 28 February when it slashes and burns prices on the PII/400 and PII/450. Further price cuts are slated to follow in early April 1999. Despite the lack of support from games companies at the Intel Developer Forum this autumn, the company is still insisting that the 70 or so additional instructions in the Streaming SIMD (Screaming Cindie) instruction set is aimed fairly and squarely at the gaming market.

Mobile Celerons, Mobile PIIs

January 1999 will be a busy month for the Satan. As well as introducing its Mobile PII/Dixon family on the 25th, at speeds of 333MHz and 366MHz, we will see Celeron mobile processors. This is Intel’s attempt to make sure that the Cyrixes and Rises of this world don’t eat into the low end notebook market – a potentially lucrative field. Initial clock speeds will be 233MHz, 266MHz and 300MHz, with prices ranging between $100 and $200 in units of 1,000.

Xeon family

Intel introduces its 450MHz/2Mb Xeon family on the 4th of January. There will also be a 1Mb version with prices of around $3,700 for the former, and $2,000 for the latter. These chips are intended for the high end server market but demonstrate just how cunning the Great Satan is. There is little essential difference between the Slot Two and the Slot One Pentium IIs aside from the additional cache. They offer PC vendors a chance to sell ridiculously expensive servers but from Intel’s point of view subsidise many of its lower end processors.

Coppermine, Cascades and other silly code names

In the second half of next year, Intel makes a number of important chip introductions based on .18 micron technology and higher clock speeds. Coppermine is likely to be a 600MHz clocked jobbie using a 133MHz FSB, with level two cache included on the processor. This is aimed at power users at both the desktop and the notebook level, although Joe D’Elia, senior semiconductor analyst at Dataquest UK, thinks that the introduction of Direct Rambus makes this question of FSBs for Intel chips all a little academic. Cascades is a .18 micron Xeon version of the foregoing and will run at 600MHz and 666MHz. Intel says 667MHz but this is a crude attempt to dodge its Great Satan of Chips tag. A Tanner 550MHz chip will be introduced in the same period. Although Willamette is supposed to be released at the beginning of the year 2000, our sources tell us they will not be surprised if Intel shifts this forward to the last or even the third quarter of 1999. Willamette has a new P6 architecture – expect Intel to migrate this down to other processors at the end of the year. Expect further announcements on its IA-32 and IA-64 architecture at the next Intel Developer Forum, held early next year.

Year 2000 and onwards

This is where Intel’s samsara really begins to kick in. What with Merced, McKinley and the rest, it’s hardly worth thinking about yet. Our information is that while Intel is still on course for Q2 2000 for a first Merced, it is still desperately trying to whip up support from both PC manufacturers and ISVs for the platform. There could be an interesting clash next year when Eckhard Pfeiffer’s Compaq starts evangelising its Alpha.

Intel and the FTC

> It’s entirely possible that Microsoft versus the US will still be running when Intel versus the US opens in February. We shall be covering the Intel case in as much detail as we have covered the Microsoft case. ®

RegistrOid 1999

According to Knaresborough seeress Old Mother Shipton, 1999 is the year when the world ends. Born in a cave in Yorkshire in 1488, she is said to have predicted the invention of the steam engine and the telegraph. How did she know about the Year 2000 bug?

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