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Pandemonium reigns in Satan Clara

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Chip giant Intel has entered the New Year by hastily revising roadmaps it was showing its customers only three weeks back, in a bid to throttle up its push to the Pentium 4 and shift stocks of existing semiconductors.

As revealed earlier this week, Intel prematurely introduced the 1.3GHz Pentium 4 slated for the end of the month, although published reports said that firms like Dell were already set to rock and roll with the chip from day one.

That means that people in Intel's marketing department, which puts together roadmaps for its customers, will probably have to shred the Week 51 roadmap we saw just after Yule and get PowerPoint fired up yet again.

Now, other PC companies which buy Intel components, have told The Register that the firm is effectively giving them "no notice" of price changes and introductions until they happen.

One manufacturer suggested that we will see more of the same in the coming weeks and months. This is a twin-pronged push to establish the Pentium 4 in the marketplace and to bring the Pentium III - particularly in its 1GHz incarnation - down to prices which will effectively allow it to compete on equal terms with AMD's Athlon processor.

As we reported towards the end of last year, a rash of introductions and price cuts are expected on 29 January. The Pentium 4 1.3GHz chip was introduced at a lower price than the Pentium III to pave the way for some severe slash-and-burn pricing during the first half of this year.

AMD, said another manufacturer, has already reduced prices of its desktop Athlons and Durons to a level which far undercuts Intel, and it has no immediate plans to reduce them further, instead preferring to let its much larger competitor sweat a little.

But the price wars that Intel and AMD are currently waging are having its effect on the rest of the PC industry, with manufacturers now struggling to make any money whatever on desktop systems, and facing changes in spec on microprocessors, mobos and chipsets which further reduce their margins.

Intel is keen to restore its reputation in the overall marketplace but the product introductions and changes it is making this year are some of the biggest it has so far faced, involving capital expenditure on fabs as it moves over to the Tualatin .13 micron, steps up its .18 micron Pentium III production in the first six months of this year, introduces its Pentium 4, more pilots of its Itanic and McKinley microprocessors, and makes some significant chipset revisions.

Falling average selling prices on CPUs will also allow Via to make a killing - its cheap and cheerful model takes into account the now almost inevitable fact that CPU prices will be measured in pennies, not pounds, not so far in the future. Expect a separate story on Via forecasts later in the day. ®

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