The Pentium 4, which is based on Intel's first new chip architecture in five years, is expected to debut in a few weeks at a clock speed of "1.4GHz and above," said Paul Otellini, executive vice president and general manager of the Intel Architecture Group.
While the new chip will debut only in more costly, high-performance PCs, Otellini said he expects the Pentium 4 to reach all segments of the mainstream PC market by the end of next year. That means users should be able to get their hands on a Pentium 4 system for as little as $US1,500 (around $2815) before 2001 is out.
Regarding the widely-watched issue of memory support for the new processor, Intel will offer only one chip set with the Pentium 4 for the bulk of the next year, and as expected that chip set will support RDRAM (Rambus dynamic random access memory), the high-speed memory interface technology designed by Rambus, Otellini said.
In late 2001, as it ships higher volumes of the Pentium 4 into lower price segments, Intel will introduce a new chip set that supports the widely used SDRAM (synchronous dynamic random access memory) as well as the emerging DDR (double data rate) SDRAM as that technology becomes mainstream, Otellini said.
Rival PC processor vendor Advanced Micro Devices on Monday introduced a new chip set that allows its high-end Athlon chips to be paired with DDR SDRAM. Compared to the fastest Pentium III, which runs at 1GHz today, the Pentium 4 will offer a performance boost of up to 25 per cent in MP3 audio encoding, 50 per cent in video encoding, and 44 per cent in video games like Quake III, Otellini said.
The Pentium III will be around in desktop systems for some time yet, however. Otellini said the "crossover point" when the company sells more Pentium 4s than Pentium IIIs isn't likely to happen until early 2002, a schedule Intel will work hard to accelerate.
Otellini made his remarks during Intel's twice-yearly meeting with financial analysts, which was broadcast over the Web. Intel's top brass were upbeat overall about the company's performance, despite problems during the past few months that included an embarrassing recall of its 1.13GHz desktop Pentium III processor and sluggish sales in Europe.
Intel's priorities moving forward are growing revenue and profit and improving "operational excellence," said Craig Barrett, Intel's president and chief executive officer.
Barrett's goal for 2001 is to see revenue grow in the "high teens" in percentage terms, he said. Moving forward, Intel's microprocessor group, which accounts for about 80 per cent of sales, is expected to grow by a comparatively modest 10 per cent a year, while new areas such as networking and communications products should grow by as much as 50 per cent, he said.
The company sees big growth opportunities in the fast-growing cellular telephone market, and plans to develop a "single-chip solution" that will combine DSP (digital signal processor), CPU (central processing unit) and flash memory functions on a single chip, Barrett said. Such highly-integrated devices should help manufacturers build smaller and less expensive phones.
"The cellphone is turning into a much more general compute product," Barrett said. "More and more you'll see Intel on the inside of those products as well as being on the inside of the PC."
In the notebook PC segment, Intel expects to crank its mobile Pentium III processor to 1.2GHz next year, while reducing the average power consumption of its mobile chips to half a watt to improve battery life. The chip maker expects that notebook sales will continue to grow faster than desktop sales, to account for a quarter of all PC units sold by 2005, Otellini said.
For server customers, meanwhile, Intel will release new 900MHz Pentium III Xeon processors early next year that feature enlarged cache sizes to boost performance. A server version of the Pentium 4, code named Foster, will appear in the first half of 2001 at 1.5GHz and above, Otellini said.
Intel is on track to launch pilot systems based on McKinley, its second 64-bit processor core, in the fourth quarter of 2001. Commercial systems based on Intel's first 64-bit Itanium, formerly code named Merced, will roll out during the course of 2001 starting early in the year, Otellini said.
Turning to InfiniBand, a high-speed bus architecture for linking Intel-based servers and storage devices, Intel expects to be among the first vendors to roll out a full set of InfiniBand products by the fourth quarter of 2001. The products will include chip sets, host adapters, switches, target devices and software, Otellini said.