Intel Kills Timna

The news comes one day after word that the Pentium 4 processor will likely ship a month later than anticipated.

Intel dropped its plans for Timna for several reasons. Chief among them is the changing marketplace, says Seth Walker, an Intel spokesperson.

When the company started designing Timna several years ago, vendors wanted an inexpensive integrated CPU to use in bargain-priced PCs, he says.

Today, discrete processors, chip sets, and motherboards are costing less, which makes them more attractive to vendors than an integrated product, he says.

Plus, vendors have been saying they prefer the design flexibility of individual parts, he says. Low-cost parts such as Intel's Celeron processors and 810e chip sets give them more options, he says.

Timna has already been delayed once since Intel first discussed it in early 1999. Originally it was to ship in the second half of this year, and in June Intel delayed it until early 2001.

Memory Translator Strikes Again

Beyond that, Intel's ongoing revisions of the Memory Translator Hub that Timna needs was threatening to delay the chip, he says. Intel was forced to recall 820-based motherboards using the original MTH in May.

Intel originally designed Timna to use Rambus (RDRAM) memory. The cost of that technology has failed to drop significantly over time, so Intel decided to incorporate the MTH so it could use cheaper SDRAM, he says.

Walker declines to estimate the research and development costs behind Timna, but says the company's decision to cancel the product will not be financially damaging.

That's probably true, says Nathan Brookwood, principal analyst with Insight 64. The only real impact will be people saying, "What's wrong with Intel?," Brookwood says.

But Intel's decision to drop Timna is a sound one, Brookwood says. "Much to Intel's credit they decided to bite the bullet," he says.

Intel was clearly trying to do too many things, he says. Even the company's chief operating officer Craig Barrett has admitted that, he says. "This is a sign they are trying to narrow their focus," he says.

What's the Lesson Learned?

The interesting thing about Intel's original decision to build Timna is that the company had tried to create an integrated product before and it failed, Brookwood says.

About ten years ago the company created an integrated product line, Brookwood notes. Intel shipped both the 386SL and a related 486SL after some delays. But vendors stayed away, and by 1992 Intel had cancelled the line.

Intel said it wouldn't try integration like that again, Brookwood says. Then came Timna -- and here we are again, he adds.

Although the Timna announcement tarnishes Intel's image, especially on the heels of the suspected P4 delay and its other recent problems, the company is unlikely to suffer any permanent damage, Brookwood adds.

To bolster its image, Intel needs a good P4 launch, he says. "For intermediate and long-term success they have to get P4 right," he says.

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Tom Mainelli

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