SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- How much mileage can you squeeze from launching just one chip?
Intel Corp.'s slow, arduous launch of the Pentium III earned the unflattering nickname "the drip." In February 1999, Intel announced the launch date, then held a "preview day." The chip actually launched weeks later, and that event was followed by two days of additional promotions.
Now the Pentium 4 is scheduled for release on Monday after a long period of development, trials, testing, media briefings, and intense speculation and analysis.
Little more about the chip itself remains to be said, but the early feedback from OEMs has been positive.
A number of major PC makers, including Dell Computer Corp., Compaq Computer Corp., Gateway Inc., NEC Corp., IBM Corp.,and Hewlett-Packard Co., will introduce new systems based on the chip, Intel executives said.
"It looks like Intel has delivered," said Bruce Rasa, NetVista marketing manager with IBM, Research Triangle Park, N.C. "The main thing we look for in real life benchmarks is
whether the vendor is delivering what they promised," Rasa said. "We go through a whole range of benchmarks, some synthetic, some the top-five real world applications. We did this with the AMD Athlon a year ago."
At Comdex in Las Vegas, Intel briefed some press and analysts under non-disclosure agreements, but left only the price of the chip and its exact performance specifications under wraps.
PC OEMs also tipped off journalists about product plans.
TechWeb did not participate in Intel's NDA briefings.
Sources briefed by Intel, Santa Clara, Calif., said that the
official "press price" of the 1.5- and 1.4-GHz should be
at or very close to $819 and $644, respectively, in 1,000-unit quantities.
Meanwhile, the performance of the chip "is all over the "map" using different benchmarks, according to one source briefed by Intel.
While some early online reviews have pegged the 1.5-GHz Pentium 4 chip as only about 16 percent faster than a 1.0-GHz Pentium III, analysts and other hardware-oriented review sites have been bound by non-disclosure agreements.
On the other hand, most OEMs also eagerly looked forward to late 2001, when chipsets and systems using cheaper SDRAM memory would be manufactured.
The Pentium 4, for now, has been exclusively tied to RDRAM memory, a decision even Intel chief executive Craig Barrett has said was a "mistake."
PCs are expected from a wide variety of OEMs, including white-box resellers. Traditionally, the newest technology finds a home in consumer PCs, analysts and OEMs said, but even some high-end corporate PCs are requiring the sort of performance the Pentium 4 can provide.
Within a sleek black chassis, IBM's A60i consumer PC is actually being designed around the latest All-in-Wonder card from ATI Technologies Inc. The card boasts the sort of video storing capabilities offered by TiVo Inc. and ReplayTV Inc., as well as a free GuidePlus channel guide.
Video can be stored in either a 45- or 75-gigabyte hard drive, offering up to 100 hours of VCR-quality video, and then transferred to an optional 9.4-Gbyte DVD-RAM drive.
While some homeowners may not tolerate a PC in the living room, IBM will likely bundle a $60 peripheral that allows the video -- stored on the PC -- to communicate wirelessly to a TV a short distance away, Rasa said.
"This is the year of IBM's direct-sales website," he said. "We'll likely offer that capability pretty soon."
IBM is touting the A60i as highly expandable, featuring either the 1.4-or 1.5-GHz Intel Pentium 4 processor.
Rasa said the systems were still undergoing final testing,
to ensure no last-minute problems occurred.
In the past, Intel has suffered embarrassing last-minute glitches with specific chipsets and components, such as the launch of the Intel 820 chipset.
Compaq will offer a model in its Deskpro EXS for about $2,600, according to Keith LeFebvre, director of product marketing for Compaq's Commerical Computing Group, Houston.
The system will include 128 Mbytes of Direct RDRAM, a 20-Gbyte hard drive, integrated sound Nvidia GeForce2 graphics, and four USB ports.
A spokesman for Gateway San Diego, confirmed that the company will offer the Gateway 1400, 1500, and 1500XL consumer PC on Monday. A similar s1400 and s1500 model will be offered by Gateway Business, as well as a specially designed managed business PC.
Dell, Round Rock, Texas, will also offer the Dimension 8100 consumer PC for about $3,398, according to Fortune. The system will include the new 1.5GHz Pentium 4 processor, and includes a high-speed 40 Gbyte hard drive.
Hewlett-Packard, Palo Alto, Calif., recently showed off a "Deep Forest" PC built for demonstration purposes. The box packed a Pentium 4 into the form factor reserved for HP's ePC business line.