New chips on the block

By R Ramasubramoni | 28 Apr 1999


A ''chip-launch'' is usually blues time for the lay computer user. More technical jargons to navigate and one more step down the "obsolescence lane" for the existing computers. The recent launches of Intel''s Pentium III and AMD K-6 did this and more. These similar processors were launched almost together. The take away notes :

  • faster and superior performance at 450-500 MHz speed
  • multimedia features for the Internet and other data-rich applications
  • new feature of Internet Streaming Single Instruction Multiple Data Extensions to enhance the 3D imaging, audio, video and speech recognition applications.

And note this "controversial" feature: P III has a new processor serial number feature to help with secure Internet transactions. In other words, each chip comes with an identifiable serial number making it easy for e-commerce and other net-related activity. Critics saw it as an intrusion into the privacy of the user. However, Intel has incorporated this feature as a "selectable" option, meaning the user has the choice to activate or deactivate this option.

All this seems a waste when you hear this: Your existing software is not going to do significantly better if you just replace the chip with the new ones. You need software specifically written for these new chips so that you get to see and use the benefits.

A head to head comparison between AMD''s and Intel''s offering shows that while both are more ore less the same on features, AMD steals a run on price. Can Intel take its domination of the Indian market where it has about 85% of the market share, for granted any more?

So what is the verdict?

Traditional early adopters need application software available for them to be able to shift to the new processor. Depending on how soon that happens, the chip vendors can go in for price cuts to attract the normal users.

Meanwhile Intel has followed up the P-III launch in a predictable fashion. It has introduced its Celeron chip with a comparable speed of 466 MHz. The Celeron chip is cheaper and caters to the low-end consumer segment. Intel has identified this segment as a fast growing one. The new Celeron chip is expected to reduce the overall price of the PC by about US $100 and it has features like three-dimensional graphics, audio and video capabilities. This chip will be available from June and IBM and Dell have announced plans to ship new PCs with this chip, while Compaq, HP and Gateway Inc are launching new systems soon.


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