SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Intel Corp. here launched 15 new Coppermine microprocessors Monday, although the delay of its corresponding Camino chip set will leave some customers high and dry for the time being.
Analysts generally viewed the launch as an opportunity for Intel to flood the market with new components, and to proliferate the Direct Rambus DRAM memory architecture. As expected, Intel launched the Intel 840, or Carmel, chip set supporting Direct RDRAM, adding a slight twist by including both a basic and an expanded version (see Oct. 25 story). To counter, Advanced Micro Devices Inc. announced a 700-MHz Athlon chip and cut its own chip prices.
Coppermine is the code name for an Intel Pentium III with 256 Kbytes of on-chip cache manufactured in a 0.18-micron process with a 133-MHz front-side bus. The chip family was originally delayed after Intel encountered difficulties ramping the processor to its target speeds.
At the launch, the company attempted to lay any manufacturing fears to rest by indicating the technology is available now from four fabs in Oregon, Arizona, Israel, and at Intel's headquarters in Santa Clara, Calif. A fifth fab, Fab 11 in New Mexico will be online in the first quarter next year producing Coppermines using Intel's 0.18-micron P856 manufacturing process.
The Coppermine launch was Intel's largest ever at any one time. "In the `80s, we had a 'one processor fits all' strategy," said Paul Otellini, executive vice president and general manager of the Intel Architecture Business Group. "In the 90's, we moved to our segmentation strategy. Now, we've tailored our products to the platform level of the Internet economy."
Intel announced nine desktop Coppermine offerings: a 733-MHz chip for $776; a 700-MHz chip for $754; a 667-MHZ version at $605; a 650-MHz chip at $583, a 600-MHz "EB" chip for $455, and a 600-MHZ "E" chip at the same price. A 533-MHz "EB" chip was released at $305. Finally, Intel announced a 550- and 500-MHz "E" chips in a new flip-chip package. All prices reflect lots of 1,000 units.
Intel has used the "B" designation to denote versions of the Coppermine that use its new 133-MHz front-side bus, adding the "E" indicator to distinguish Coppermine chips from classic Pentium IIIs at the same clock speed.
Analysts believe that the socketed Coppermines will also help Intel's bottom line. "For me, my angle would be the reduction in cost," said Jonathan Joseph, analyst with Salomon Smith Barney Inc. in San Francisco, who estimated that the socketed chip would remove about $10 in manufacturing cost. "It's also interesting that they're reversing a strategy begun with the Pentium II."
As others have suspected, the flip-chip FCPA package will eventually replace the Slot 1 module-based microprocessor, according to Pat Gelsinger, vice president and general manager of the Desktop Product Group. Gelsinger added that the Slot 1 infrastructure will remain well into the new year.
"It's a technology-driven transition," he said. "If we could, we would have placed the L2 cache directly onto the die, and mitigated many of the reasons that drove us to a slot in the first place. But at 0.35-micron and 0.25-micron we didn't have the transistor budget to allow us to do that."
For now, a few of Intel's key OEMs will be forced to bundle the new Coppermines with the 810E, Intel's 133-MHz frontside-bus chip set with a value-class integrated graphics core. However, Dell Computer Corp., like Compaq Computer Corp. and Gateway Inc., have chosen to wait for the Intel 820 or Camino chipset.
A spokesman for Dell in Round Rock, Tex., said the OEM had planned to marry the performance of the Intel 820 with the new Coppermine, and hasn't changed its decision. Dell's Dimension line is manufactured with Intel motherboards. Other OEMs have simply chosen a competing chipset from Via Technologies Inc.
OEM and industry sources said a Camino re-launch is tentatively scheduled for mid-November, just before Comdex, although Intel has not confirmed the date.
Intel also nudged the prices of its existing classic Pentium IIIs, Pentium IIs, and Celerons downward. The price of the older 600 MHz Pentium III tumbled 24% to $465, while the 550-MHz classic chip dropped 18% to $348. A 533-MHz part dropped 14% to $316, while the 500-MHz and 450-MHz parts fell 9% and 6%, respectively, to $229 and $173. The 450-MHz Pentium II slipped 6% to $173, leaving the 400-MHz Pentium II unchanged at $163. The 500-MHz, 466-MHz, and 433-MHz Celerons all dropped about 7%, to $143, $94, and $73, respectively.
Intel's mobile Coppermine lineup, by comparison, is far simpler. The company introduced three new mobile chips: a $530 device that runs at 500 MHz, and a 450- and a low-voltage 400-MHz mobile processor, both of which are $348 in 1,000-unit lots.
For notebook OEMs, shrinking the linewidths to 0.18-micron results in a 32% drop in active power, according to Robert Jecmen, vice president of the Intel Architecture Business Group and general manager of the Mobile and Handheld Products Group. Intel has used some of that power savings up by increasing the speed of the 440BX chipset to a 100-MHz front-side bus, although the power increase is nominal, he said. In total, a 500-MHz Coppermine based system will use about 11 watts in typical applications, he said.
Intel's most notable addition to the server and workstation market will be the Intel 840, the last minute stand-in for the Camino as the booster rocket for Direct Rambus DRAM. The Carmel chip set, as it was previously known, featured an unexpected addition by including a scalable configuration that allows up to 4 gigabytes of memory using a memory repeater. A two-chip "core configuration" provides two Rambus channels, but only 2 Gbytes of memory.
The scalable configuration is actually Intel's first five-chip set, consisting of two common I/O and memory controller chips, plus a P64H dual 64-bit PCI bridge and two memory repeaters. Intel will sell each chip individually. Pricing was not immediately available.
Somewhat surprisingly, the chip set will not support the intermediary 700-MHz Direct Rambus speed. "We wanted to qualify the chipset for the highest-performance possible," said Anand Chandrasekher, general manager of Intel's Workstation Products Group.
Intel debuted three new Pentium III Xeon-brand Coppermines for the workstation market: 733-, 667-, and 600-MHz chips for two-processor implementations. The chips cost $826, $655, and $505, respectively. Intel's Xeon cartridges have pulled the voltage regulator chip off of the motherboard, saving cost. A thermal sensor has also been integrated.
AMD, in Sunnyvale, Calif., remains a notch behind Intel, even with the introduction of a 700-MHz Athlon. The new chip is available for $699, while the 650- and 600-MHz Athlons are $519 and $419, respectively. The 550- and 500-MHz parts now cost $279 and $209. A company spokesman said the price cuts were scheduled, but adjusted to counter Intel's moves.
"One thing to keep in mind, though, is that Jerry [Sanders III] said at our Fab 30 launch that we'll begin to make product introductions based on marketing concerns, not because we can't manufacture them," the AMD spokesman said.