Intel sets Pentium 4 path to 2GHz

The chip maker is counting on the Pentium 4 to pull it into the speed lead again. But, don't hold your breath.The chip maker plans to launch the Pentium 4 next month, then push the chip's clock speed beyond 2GHz by the middle of 2001. No small task for a company that's seen its last year marred by such gaffes as manufacturing-related chip shortages, 820 chip set problems, and Pentium III 1.13GHz recall. Rival Advanced Micro Devices Inc. (NYSE: AMD), meanwhile, has pulled squarely into the desktop chip speed lead.

According to sources, Intel is hoping to put those problems behind with the Pentium 4, now slated for a Nov. 20 launch after 850 chip set problems caused a month-long delay.

Intel plans to introduce the Pentium 4 at 1.4GHz and 1.5GHz, before rapidly ramping clock speeds, sources said. By the first quarter of 2001, Intel intends to be shipping 1.7GHz or faster Pentium 4 chips, and, by the second quarter, Pentium 4s approaching 2GHz. If Intel stays on track with its current plans, Pentium 4 will exceed 2GHz by the second half of next year.

"Pentium 4 re-enables Intel to climb up the clock rate ladder. It's in Intel and AMD's interest to get ahead and stay there," said Mike Feibus, principal at chip analyst firm Mercury Research.

"AMD does have an advantage in consumer in the $1,750 to $2,000 (price band)," Feibus said. "But the majority of PC sales, about two thirds of the consumer market, come from PCs priced at $1,000 or less." Everything else is "small potatoes," he said. "You can argue about whether AMD's small potatoes is bigger than Intel's, but they're all still small potatoes."

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