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Intel delays Pentium III for notebooks

The delay of the chip until late fall means laptop makers will lose one to two crucial months of potential sales.

Tech Industry
Intel will delay the release of Pentium III processor for notebooks until October or November, a lag that means laptop makers will lose one to two crucial months of potential sales.

Pentium III chips for notebooks, as well as notebooks using the chip, were scheduled for September, according to sources close to the company. Notebook manufacturers, however, have run into problems completing their "qualification," or testing, of the processor. As a result, the chip, and notebooks using it, will not come out until October or November.

While the delay is relatively short, it is expected to crimp notebook sales during the key back-to-school and pre-holiday season.

"We are all shocked that Intel has done this, pushing it back that much," said one notebook manufacturers who requested anonymity. "We had heard rumors of a delay, but a month is pretty significant. Obviously, Intel doesn't have the same competition on the notebook side the way they do on the desktop side with the Athlon chip. That would make the world much more interesting."

Several notebook manufacturers described the delay as devastating. "The fall season is generally our biggest selling season, starting in early September with the back-to-school sort of mentality," said one manufactured, who asked not to be identified. "If it was just a speed bump, it wouldn't be that big of a deal. The problem it's a new processor with new technology."

PC manufacturers did not reserve their frustration for the mobile processor delay. They also said privately that Intel waited too long to introduce the 600-MHz Pentium III and 500-MHz Celeron processors, announced on Monday. The August introduction, they said, would likely crimp the back-to-school selling season.

Two executives at two separate computer manufacturers, however, said the delay would not effect their plans, especially since the shortage of flat-panel displays still lingers.

The delay to this "Coppermine" chip is also the latest in a series of product road map glitches for the chip giant in 1999. Analysts say that the various delays are not likely symptomatic of a larger problem and in general are unrelated to each other. Still, they have been adding up.

In February, Intel delayed the release of its "Camino" chipset for high-end desktops from June to September. The chipset will be the first from Intel that will allow PC makers to adopt high speed Rambus memory as well as wring out the most power out of the latest generation of graphics chips. Its delay therefore put off adoption of these innovations.

In June, Intel then delayed the release of the "Coppermine" Pentium III processor from September to November. Running at 600-MHz, the Coppermine improves on standard Pentium IIIs by integrating the secondary cache memory onto the same piece of silicon as the processor. The chip also is made on the more advanced 0.18-micron manufacturing process. The long and short of it--better performance than standard Pentium IIIs. To compensate for the delay, Intel recently released a 600-MHz "standard" Pentium III.

At that time, Intel also delayed the release of 600-MHz Pentium IIIs based around the Coppermine design from September to November. However, the company said it would come out with a 500-MHz version in September. This is the chip that has been delayed.

During this same period, it came to light that the design for the Merced chip, the company's next generation 64-bit processor, had only just been completed. As a result, the chip won't likely come out in systems until late in 2000, later than expected, according to, among other sources, Linley Gwennap of MicroDesign Resources.

"It's that this is a tough business," said Dean McCarron, analyst at Mercury Research. McCarron added that the slip in the notebook schedule was predictable because of the delay to the desktop version of Coppermine.

On the other hand, the company has released versions of the Celeron processor ahead of schedule in its effort to take market share away from AMD.

An Intel spokesman also added that earlier delay to the Coppermine desktops occurred because of slight design issues with the chip itself. The delays to the notebook chips are happening because of qualification and notebook design issues.

Officially, Intel officials denied that a slip occurred, maintaining that the official position was that the chip was due in the second half. Other sources at the company said in June that September was the expected launch date. Sources close to the company said the launch was originally scheduled for around Labor Day.

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