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Willamette it or won't it?

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Intel's new wonder chip, codenamed Willamette, is, according to official leaks from Chipzilla central, due for launch in October. Slightly less official, but usually reliable, sources close to the chip behemoth tell us that Willamette is due to start sampling in July. This would be about right for a sampling date for an October launch, but we also learn that the whole thing hangs on how quickly Intel can ramp its 0.18 micron process, used for both the existing Coppermine Pentium III range and its successor -- and that seems to be coming together rather better now. At the Intel Developer Forum in Palm Springs next week, Chipzilla will run its regular 'mine's faster than yours' demo -- almost certainly on a Coppermine, despite rumours that Willamette might put in an early appearance in the megahertz war. We'll know next week, but in the meantime the question remains whether October will really be the launch date for Willamette, or if it will arrive sooner. The chip taped out just after Christmas and Intel certainly has both the technical ability and increasing pressure from AMD's Athlon to produce silicon in less than six months. Intel has had its fingers burned in the past by ignoring its designers and engineers and setting launch dates to suit the marketing department's requirements: Merced/Itanium's target launch date was brought forward by three months under pressure from the marketing goons and then "slipped" by exactly the same amount when the company realised the engineers'predictions had been right all along. This means Intel will leave the launch dates on its roadmap alone. But if chips can be launched early, rest assured they will be. The combination of commercial pressures and the accelerating ramp of 0.18 micron puts Chipzilla under pressure to get Willamette out there as soon as it can. So will it be October or August? This is important stuff -- two Register staffers have five English pounds riding on it... ®

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