Intel Corp.'s competitors will not duplicate the chip giant's security initiatives, which has provoked outrage and a boycott from privacy advocates.
At the crux of the debate is Intel's plan to embed in its Pentium III processors a unique 96-bit identifying code, or serial number, which it designed to verify the identities of buyers and sellers on the Internet. The ID feature would complement a random-number generator embedded in the Pentium III chipsets for additional security.
An Intel spokesman said the company will make the technology behind an ID initiative available to its competitors to allow compatibility across the industry, in much the same way that Advanced Micro Devices Inc. and Cyrix Corp. include the MMX instruction set without duplicating Intel's processors.
Intel, however, will retain some aspects of the ID codes to prevent another microprocessor company from accidentally duplicating them, although chances of that happening are unlikely.
A spokesman for Sunnyvale, Calif.-based AMD said his company has no plans to introduce a similar ID feature unless buyers ask for it. National Semiconductor Corp.'s Cyrix processor division, in Santa Clara, Calif., also will not include the ID feature, but will build unspecified security features into future products, a spokeswoman said.
Chipset maker Via Technologies Inc. could build in a hardware number generator but has no current plans to do so, according to Dean Hays, vice president of marketing for Via's U.S. operations, based in Fremont, Calif.
Privacy groups have asked the Federal Trade Commission to issue a recall of Intel's Pentium III devices, while extending their boycott to PC OEMs that use the chip.
In response to pressure from the privacy groups-and even some state and federal legislators-Intel said it would change the ID's default setting to "off." Likewise, companies would not be required to have a Pentium III to engage in secure electronic commerce, an Intel spokesman said.
Intel sells more than $1 billion worth of its products electronically each month, a company spokesman said. But by the end of 1999, possibly only 10% of the worldwide PC market will use the Pentium III.
"If I'm a merchant and want to sell to that remaining 90% of the market," he said, "am I not going to figure out other ways to make those goods available for sale? Intel's the same way."