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Asian chip vendors offer Intel alternative

Eleven major chip makers establish a consortium to develop a high-performance microprocessor integrating both memory and processing functions, to compete with Intel.

Eleven major semiconductor chip makers established a consortium Monday to develop a high-performance microprocessor integrating both memory and processing functions, in order to compete in the microprocessor market with Intel (INTC).

The list of chip makers includes Fujitsu, Toshiba, and Matsushita Electric Industrial, according to a report in the Nihon Keizai Shimbun, Japan's largest business daily.

The members expect to publish specifications for the parallel-processing microprocessor with random-access memory (PPRAM) by the end of the year, in order to have the new microprocessor on the market by as soon as 1998.

The new chip will integrate a microprocessor with memory on a single chip and will provide efficient parallel processing, according to the report. Members of the alliance will design and manufacture processors for use in personal computers and multimedia equipment.

"There's no doubt that the coalition can execute, but getting the market to adopt [a new processor] is a completely different issue," cautions Dean McCarron, principal analyst at Mercury Research.

McCarron remembered a similar initiative by Japanese chip makers in the late 1980s which produced a chip and an operating system that aimed to supplant Microsoft's DOS and Intel's processors. The initiative failed to make any impact.

The inclusion of semiconductor makers outside of Japan such as Texas Instruments and SGS Thompson may be a result of that earlier failure to market the chips in the North American market, according to McCarron.

Other members include Texas Instruments Japan, NEC, and Hitachi.