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Intel to make ‘significant’ roadmap changes next week

Leaked email hinting at the death of the desktop Pentium III?

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Something "of great significance" to PC system builders is going down at Intel - and the company is preparing to tell its customers about it in just under two weeks' time, The Register has learned.

As yet, we don't know what said companies will be told, but an Intel email leaked to us today talks about "the changes" which, the email's author hints, will affect Intel's processor roadmap.

The leaked email is a call for Intel customers to attend a meeting in two weeks' time. Intel staff themselves will be briefed about "the changes" late next week.

So what might be up? We thought at first that the email might simply be referring to minor changes to the roadmap, perhaps bringing forward processor launches due later this quarter, specifically mobile and desktop 0.13 micron Tualatin Pentium III processors. The mobile is due any day now in any case.

Alternatively, Intel may be bringing forward chips it's expecting to launch much later in the year, the 0.13 micron Pentium 4 die shrink, codenamed Northwood, as part of a plan to phase out the PIII brand more quickly than originally planned.

Certainly having three desktop processor brands - P4, PIII and Celeron - may well cause some confusion among buyers. And with Celeron clearly established as the low-end product, and April's P4 price cuts having pushed that chip line right down to the bottom end of the mainstream market, there's now little room (or need) for the PIII in Intel's line-up.

The solution: bin the PIII desktop brand and migrate Tualatin down to the Celeron line (where it will end up early next year in any case). PIII will be retained as a low-end server and, more importantly, mobile brand until Intel can ship mobile P4s, based on Northwood, early next year.

Intel's recent move to fill out the P4 line with 1.6GHz and 1.8GHz versions, plus the upcoming 1.9GHz and 2GHz parts, certainly suggest such a course. The move widens the chip's spread right across the mainstream PC market, from the high-end (PCs costing $2000 or more) right down to the bottom end (PCs costing under $1000). Where's the need for a PIII there?

The arrival of the SDRAM-based i845 chipset (aka Brookdale) this quarter will certainly accelerate the demise of the PIII. ®

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