Intel has quietly embarked on an ambitious campaign aimed at enticing software vendors to unleash new compelling applications in tandem with the Katmai processor launch early next year.
The chip giant is keeping a tight lid on its efforts, however, and the hundreds of participating software vendors have all signed strict non-disclosure agreements about the new Katmai-optimised applications they are developing. "We don't want to blow the cover off Katmai - we still have Pentium IIs to sell," admitted a spokeswoman for Intel.
No wonder. If word came out that Katmai was worth waiting for, many buyers in the market for a new PC might delay purchases, which could ruin the Christmas holiday spending spree for Intel as well as the PC vendor community at large.
Intel's Katmai campaign builds, in part, on lessons learned from the MMX launch in early 1997, but this time around the company has significantly expanded the scope of its efforts to include the whole spectrum of software developers, from games to business applications, on a global level.
"We are engaging with global companies, it's not a US-centric effort," the Intel spokeswoman said.
The Katmai crusade started soon after the MMX launch, and Intel in the past year has been providing interested developers with compilers, debuggers and assemblers, as well as training, to help their Katmai efforts.
Since June, Intel has shipped almost 500 Katmai systems to developers, allowing them to put the code they have already completed onto real systems, the spokeswoman said, declining to name any of the software vendors taking part in the program.
And while consumers are likely to be the early adopters, Intel certainly hopes that Katmai also will give rise to a new generation of must-have business applications, analysts said.
In the corporate world, which still makes up the bulk of PC sales, the need for high-performance computing today is limited to only about 10 per cent of the total, said Roger Kay, analyst at market researcher International Data Corp. "Intel wants to up that with more compelling business applications," Kay said.
Finding the apps
Among the participating business software developers are marque names such as Adobe Systems, IBM and Microsoft, according to industry sources familiar with Intel's Katmai sales pitch. Leading speech recognition firms including Lernout & Hauspie Speech Products and Dragon Systems are also on board, sources confirmed.
Exactly what products these and other software makers are preparing of Katmai is unclear, given the strict order of silence imposed by Intel. But the chip giant has given ample indications about what types of software features will benefit from the new chip.
The first Katmai processors are due to appear in the first quarter of 1999 running at 450MHz and 500MHz. Central to the chip's design is the Katmai New Instructions (KNI), a set of about 70 new processor instructions carefully architected to boost performance of multimedia-intensive software applications.