Buyers will get more choices in PCs, and Intel will get more paranoid, as x86 CPU competitors field an array of chips - some of them more capable than Intel's high-end offerings.
"These guys are going to be fighting each other tooth and nail," said Nathan Brookwood, a principal analyst at Insight 64, a consultancy in California.
Advanced Micro Devices, for one, will maintain a price advantage over Intel and is narrowing the gap in performance, said David Somo, director of product marketing in AMD's Computation Products Group.
AMD will have a 450MHz CPU early in 1999 when Intel releases its 500MHz Katmai chip, Somo said. That will keep AMD within one speed grade of Intel.
Also in the first quarter, AMD will offer mobile versions of the K6-2 and Sharptooth. This will give AMD mobile processors with 3D extensions months before Intel offers a mobile Coppermine processor with Katmai New Instructions. Intel does not plan to offer a mobile version of the Katmai processor.
AMD also plans to gain on Intel with the K7 processor. Slated to ship in the first half of 1999, the K7 will run at 500MHz and faster, and use a 200MHz system bus borrowed from the Alpha processor. Not to be left out, Cyrix will move to a 0.18-micron process in April 1999 with the introduction of the MXi, a highly integrated CPU. The MXi will use the Cayenne core and offer 3DNow instruction-set extensions.
Midyear, Cyrix will offer a standalone version of Cayenne, code-named Jedi, in a Socket 7 package. In 2000, Cyrix will release its M3 CPU, an integrated processor using its new Jalapeno core.
A new competitor, Rise Technology, is in production with its mP6 processor and will offer the faster mP6 II in 1999.
Admitting that the current IDT WinChip processors suffer from slow clock speeds, Centaur Technology is readying the WinChip 4 for introduction in the second half of the year. Clock speeds should reach 500MHz in the current 0.25-micron process and faster speeds in 1999's 0.18-micron process, said Glenn Henry, president of Centaur.
Rivals' road map
Intel and its competitors will give users more CPU choices in the next two years.
AMD Sharptooth First quarter, 1999
Intel Katmai First quarter, 1999
AMD K7 First half, 1999
Cyrix MXi First half, 1999
IDT WinChip 3 First half, 1999
Intel Tanner First half, 1999
Rise mP6 II First half, 1999
Cyrix Jedi Second half, 1999
IDT WinChip 4-1 Second half, 1999
Intel Cascades Second half, 1999
Intel Coppermine Second half, 1999
Cyrix M3 First half, 2000
IDT WinChip 4-2 First half, 2000
Intel Foster Second half, 2000
Intel Willamette Second half, 2000