Intel is planning to introduce its fastest processor yet -- the 450MHz Pentium II Xeon -- the first week in October, and is already preparing products that can use that level of performance.
Intel is working with Lucent on "away-from-the-office" business applications that use Lucent's Speech Application Platform. One result of this alliance may be text-to-speech software that converts written e-mail into audio that a flash-memory card can store.
An Intel representative would not confirm specific product plans, but said a player based on Intel flash memory is one possibility. A flash-card player "is very feasible", said Alan Niebel, a memory analyst at Semico Research.
The device could plug in to a PC through a serial port, flash-card adapter, PC Card slot, or Universal Serial Bus port, Niebel noted. Other applications include downloading articles from the Internet to play on the road or listening to books on disk while travelling.
Text-to-speech technology complements Microsoft's efforts to bring speech recognition to mainstream PCs.
A reason for Intel to promote such products is that users perceive that they need faster PCs, Niebel said. That keeps users trading up to the latest Intel CPU.
Another application in the same mould is videoconferencing. Intel recently introduced its ProShare 500 videoconferencing system, which requires a 233MHz Pentium II and performs best with a 400MHz or faster chip, according to Mike Witteman, director of product development at Intel.
ProShare 500 can operate over an ISDN line via the H.320 standard or over a LAN using H.323. It includes support for Windows 95 and Windows NT, with Windows 98 support coming later this year.
The 450MHz Pentium II Xeon for workstations is the last product Intel plans to introduce this year. Following last week's Pentium II and Celeron CPU introductions, Intel will release a 300MHz mobile Pentium II chip on September 9. The four-way capable version of the 450MHz Xeon will not be available until January, when Intel expects to have worked out problems with the Xeon CPU and 450NX server chip set.
By late this year, Intel's fastest CPUs will include:
* Servers: 400MHz Pentium II Xeon
* Workstations: 450MHz Pentium II Xeon
* Desktops: 450MHz Pentium II
* Basic PCs: 333MHz Celeron
* Mobile units: 300MHz Pentium II