Intel Corp. has delayed the launch of its next-generation Almador chipset and, instead, will upgrade the 815E to support its upcoming Tualatin 1.3-GHz Pentium III processor, according to industry sources.
Intel felt a Direct Rambus DRAM graphics port on Almador might not be ready in time for the Tualatin launch in mid-2001, according to industry observers, including executives at chipset and memory companies and analysts.
The Pentium III Tualatin will debut using the 815E and its existing APG4X port. The chip manufacturer will also tweak the 815E by adding the new 1.5-V termination voltage and differential clock features that would have been in Almador, the sources said.
Intel does not comment on unannounced products, said a spokeswoman for the company in Folsom, Calif.
Intel couldn't risk Almador's radical new graphics technology not being developed and fully tested in time for the Tualatin launch and was concerned the industry's infrastructure to support Almador might not be built in time for Tualatin, said Bert McComas, an analyst at InQuest Market Research, Phoenix.The company most recently planned to ship a scaled-down Almador early for existing Pentium III chips to help build up an infrastructure to fully support Tualatin next summer, McComas said.
Almador's fate is uncertain if the upgraded 815E can fully support Tualatin, executives at chipset and memory suppliers said. Third-party chipset vendors would also be able to modify their Pentium III units to support the new Tualatin. In addition, they have to adapt existing chipsets to support the 1.5-V termination voltage and differential clock, but this isn't considered a major difficulty, according to the executives.
Almador was expected to have both single-data-rate and DDR capability to support Tualatin, and the device's delay also puts in question the future of an Intel DDR chipset for Tualatin, they said.
However, Intel could use modified third-party DDR chipsets with Tualatin to compete against Advanced Micro Devices Inc.'s Athlon DDR MPUs.
Among Almador's biggest technical changes was a new graphics port that would support point-to-point contact with two to four Direct Rambus DRAMs, McComas said.
The Almador Direct RDRAM port was based on point-to-point technology developed for the Timna processor, which integrated the north bridge and graphics core, McComas said. The Rambus version of Timna had to be delayed when the current Direct RDRAM chips proved too costly, and Intel went to an interim Memory Translator Hub (MTH) to use cheaper SDRAMs until Rambus prices came down. The MTH then ran aground technically, and Intel canceled the entire Timna program.
Work on the new graphics engine and point-to-point Direct Rambus memory continued, however, now targeting Tualatin and Almador for the initial application, McComas said.
That development could still be ongoing, but Intel elected to make the initial Tualatin launch with a proven chipset-the upgraded 815E, the chip executives said.
One early market for the 1.3-GHz Tualatin is expected to be laptop computers. The integrated graphics mode of the 815E will still use the trailing-edge Intel 752 graphics core, but that's considered sufficient for laptops. Intel is positioning Tualatin at the lower end of the midrange PC and possibly value-end of the market.