Intel strikes back with 1.5 GHz Willamette chip

By : |February 15, 2000 0

The performance battle between Intel and AMD reached new heights this week as
Intel, at the opening of its developer conference in San Jose, showed samples of
its next generation Pentium processor developed under the code name Willamette.
The chip has a top performance of 1.5 gigahertz. Early production versions,
available as early as the second half of this year will run at around 1.3 GHz.

That puts Intel back in the processor performance leadership role after AMD
had upstaged Intel last week by showing off a 1.1 GHz Athlon chip. AMD still
holds the lead in the category of fastest available processor. Its current
top-of-the-line production model, running at 850 MHz, exceeds the speed of
Intel’s fastest Pentium III, which operates at 800 MHz.

Analysts said the 1.5 Willamette chip shows Intel has worked the bugs out of
its production processes for the high-end chips. Earlier glitches caused Intel
to be unable to meet demand for its chips. The new Willamette microarchitecture
will be Intel’s first new architecture for its 32-bit chip family since the
PentiumPro chip was launched in 1995.

Intel said the production models of the Willamette would be guaranteed to run
at more than 1 gigahertz. In addition, Intel plans to sell a version of its
current Pentium III chip running at around 1GHz. "We will be shipping
hundreds of thousands of Willamettes by the end of this year," said Albert Yu,
general manager of Intel’s microprocessor products group. While some analysts
have begun to wonder how fast PC processors need to be, Intel chairman Andy
Grove said the additional power would enable developers to bring advanced new
capabilities to the home and office which simply cannot be offered on current
PCs. And for server systems, there is almost never enough processing power a
chip can supply. "Performance on the server level is absolutely
mandatory," Grove said.

Added Pat Gelsinger, vice president of Intel’s Desktop Products Group,
"Performance does matter on the Internet. It does today and it will in the
future." Grove also said Intel is close to launching the Itanium, which
will be aimed at the server market. The chip will be able to run both Windows
2000, Sun Solaris and Linux operating systems. Intel Executive Vice President
Paul Otellini, however, said he’s been disappointed with Sun’s commitment to
making Solaris work on Itanium, and that now Intel plans to cut back effort in
the cooperative project accordingly. "They’ve been much more talk than
action. We’re going to match their level of commitment and focus our efforts
elsewhere."

Intel wouldn’t say if the Willamette will be called Pentium, but Gelsinger
said the company’s Pentium brand is too valuable to ignore. "It would be
fair to assume that we’ll find a way to leverage that name," Intel also
introduced a new low-priced chip called Timna, aimed at inexpensive PCs. It will
be available this year. Timna is named after a national park in Israel where it
was designed, and will be part of the Celeron line. The chip integrates both
processor functions, a memory controller and a graphics controller.

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