Intel to close desktop and notebook speed gap

The introduction of a new manufacturing process in the second half of 1999 will allow Intel to make mobile Pentium II processors that run at 600MHz, temporarily closing the performance gap between desktop and notebook computers, an Intel executive has disclosed.

"For the first time in a long while we'll be able to the match peak performance of desktop PCs in the notebook space," said Paul Otellini, executive vice president of the Intel Architecture Business Group, in a presentation before financial analysts last Friday.

Intel's current fastest mobile Pentium II processor tops out at 333MHz. The chip maker hopes to crank that figure up to 366MHz early next year, but by that time its desktop processors will have reached 500MHz with the release of its first Katmai processor.

Mobile processor speeds typically lag behind those of desktops because of power limitations in notebooks -- faster chips wear out batteries more quickly -- and because of the greater amount of heat generated by the larger, faster chips.

Intel will be able to overcome those hurdles when it begins transitioning to a new, 0.18-micron process technology next year, which will be employed initially to manufacture mobile chips, Otellini said.

The parity between desktop and notebook speeds will likely be short lived, however. By the end of 1999 Intel will transition its desktop products to the 0.18-micron process also, allowing it to boost the speed of its Pentium II chips to as high as 1 Gigahertz in 2000, officials said.

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