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Willamette coming real soon now

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The headless chicken scenario at Intel goes from strength to strength. As OEMs queue up to build Athlon-based systems, the once-almighty Chip behemoth is plumbing new depths in the panic department. Not content with being unable to supply enough Coppermine Pentium III chips, Athlon's performance is forcing Intel to torture the venerable P6 processor core by running it well above its original design spec. 750MHz PIIIs do exist in small numbers, but reports from UK system builders indicate that they run so hot that only the very best dual-fan heatsinks are good enough to keep them running. "I haven't even seen an 800MHz part yet," one system builder told The Register. One plausible explanation for the Coppermine shortage is that Intel is ramping the next generation of 32bit mainstream chips so fast that it is impacting its ability to produce Coppermines. The P6 architecture, which first saw the light of day in the Pentium Pro, has reached the end of the line. And according to Intel official roadmaps, its successor, Willamette, isn't due to arrive until the second half of the year. Back in October last year, US sources told The Register that Willamette would arrive at the end of February 2000. Hardly anyone believed us. Now we discover that not only will the 64bit McKinley processor arrive before Itanium/Merced, but that the next generation IA32 chip taped out a month ago – who ya gonna believe? Intel or The Register? McKinley is coming early because Merced isn't fast enough. Willamette is coming early because Coppermine isn't fast enough. The only area where Intel is OK at the moment is at the high end with Pentium III Xeon and at the low end with Celeron – which is so good that AMD has announced it is now working on a Celeron basher based on Athlon. Doncha just love the sight of Chipzilla panicking? For years they've sat smugly in their ivory towers, convinced that the world+dog will be grateful for whatever wonderful product they deign to launch next. Things started to go a bit pear-shaped about two years back when Intel woke up for a few moments and noticed that what it so charmingly calls its 'imitators' – led by AMD – had quietly stolen a huge slab of the low end market. Chipzilla's knee-jerk reaction was to launch the ill-fated original Celeron, codenamed Covington. This cacheless design caused reviewers and OEMs to fall about laughing with its lamentable performance. A few months' intensive panicking later, the vastly superior Mendocino appeared with on-die, full speed L2 cache. But although Intel's designers had done their jobs properly this time, the lumbering marketing department cocked up big time. Unable to position Celeron properly, the popular but low margin part stole sales big time from the high margin mainstream chip, Pentium II. This wasn't quite as bad as it could have been, because Katmai, aka Pentium III was due real soon. Now it looks as if Athlon has forced Intel to bring Willamette forward, can it be long before the high-end IA32 chip, Foster makes an appearance too? Originally slated for 2H 2000, we wouldn't be at all surprised if it, too, entered the Satan Clara timewarp to provide high-end cover for the Xeon server/workstation parts sooner rather than later. ®

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