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Intel PC-on-a-chip details emerge

Timna due 2000

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Details of Intel's upcoming PC-on-a-chip product, now codenamed Timna, are at last beginning to appear. The 0.18 micron part will contain a Pentium II-class processor core, 128K of L2 cache, North Bridge, I/O "hub" and a Direct Rambus memory controller, it has emerged. These features come in addition to the Savage4-based graphics controller, developed for the Intel part by Savage 4 creator -- and Chipzilla's favourite 3D graphics company -- S3. Intel's PC-on-a-chip project was first mooted back in November 1998 by senior VP Paul Otellini and reported by The Register here. He said Chipzilla was developing such a product, due to ship in 2000, to win back ground lost to the likes of Cyrix, IDT/Centaur and AMD. IDT/Centaur and Cyrix have never really featured on Intel's radar screen -- doubly so given Cyrix's post-NatSemi future, if it has one -- but AMD is another matter. For most of this year, AMD's K6-2 has been massively outselling Intel's Celeron in the sub-$1000 PC category, which is also the fastest growing sector of the PC market. Intel undoubtedly hopes Timna will appeal to the emerging market for Internet access devices, where upgradability and raw performance aren't the issue they are in the PC market, yet are sufficiently PC-like for x86 compatibility and the Intel brand name to carry weight. Many analysts believe that most consumer PCs are now being bought more for Internet access than traditional personal productivity use (see Consumer PC spending hits peak), and bringing the price of such systems down through the use of integrated components like PC-on-a-chip parts could be the key to expanding that market. Of course, that assumes Intel can get the price way down. Timna is likely to be a large chip, even at 0.18 microns, which will hit yields and thus margins. Still, Intel's not beyond taking a greater financial hit to promote its products, so it may well be able to price Timna attractively. ®

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