Intel cuts prices, prepares to launch new chips

Intel cuts prices, prepares to launch new chips

Intel took the axe to its microprocessor prices recently as the US chip vendor prepares to release a panoply of new products in the weeks ahead.

In the desktop market, Intel cut the price of its high-end Pentium III processor by as much as 31 per cent, and its Celeron processor by up to 15 per cent. Prices on Intel's mobile Pentium III chips were reduced by up to 34 per cent, while the price of a mobile Celeron dropped as much as 44 per cent, according to the company's Web site. The price of Intel's Pentium III Xeon processor, designed for workstations and servers, fell by up to 29 per cent, the company said.

The price cuts took effect May 28, and apply to chips bought in 1000-unit quantities. Intel said the price cutting moves are part of the company's regular pricing activity.

The cuts come as both Intel and its chief rival, Advanced Micro Devices (AMD), prepare to release a shower of new, faster processors in the weeks ahead.

By the end of next month, Intel plans to release new desktop Celerons running at clock speeds of 633MHz, 667MHz and 700MHz. Intel's current fastest Celeron tops out at 600MHz.

For notebook users, Intel has said it will raise the speed of its fastest mobile Pentium III to at least 750MHz by the end of the first half of this year, up from 700MHz currently. The chip's clock speed should increase to 850MHz or greater in the second half of this year, Intel spokesman Seth Walker said.

Also next month, Intel is expected to release a new chip set called the 815. A chip set is a collection of chips that surrounds the main processor in a PC.

The 815 includes a 133MHz system bus, compared to 100MHz on comparable current Intel chip sets, as well as an optional integrated graphics chip that should help PC makers offer customers a greater choice of graphics configurations.

Not to be outdone, AMD will look to upstage its larger rival with the release of Duron, its new chip for sub-$US1000 PCs, and Thunderbird, an improved version of its high-end Athlon processor. Both of these processors are expected to appear in the next four to six weeks.

AMD is keeping a tight lid on Duron's details, including its clock speed and price. Formerly code-named Spitfire, the chip will have a 200MHz front-side bus, AMD's 3DNow technology, and an on-chip Level 2 cache, all of which should help enhance its performance, AMD said. Duron is a Latin word that translates roughly as "long lasting."Thunderbird, meanwhile, tweaks AMD's existing Athlon processor by moving the Level 2 cache onto the same silicon die as the processor -- a move that should boost performance. AMD is keeping quiet about what Thunderbird's clock speed will be; the company's current fastest Athlon processor runs at 1GHz, the same speed as Intel's fastest Pentium III.

Clock speed is only one measure of processor performance, which also depends on a host of other variables. Consumers tend to pay closest attention to the megahertz figure, which has sparked an intense rivalry between Intel and AMD to offer the "fastest" chip.

Later this year, Intel plans to launch a new PC processor code-named Willamette, which it says is based on a completely revised architecture from today's Pentium III. Intel has said it will debut the processor at a clock speed of 1.4GHz.

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