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New Xeon chip makes early appearance

Though Intel has yet to introduce the new processor aimed at workstations and servers, major manufacturers have begun offering it in systems via their Web sites.

Intel's 3.06GHz Xeon chip has quietly made its way into new workstations.

Though Intel has yet to introduce the new processor aimed at workstations and servers, major manufacturers such as Dell Computer and Hewlett-Packard have begun advertising it in systems on their Web sites.

The 3.06GHz chip, expected to launch later this quarter, will offer the fastest clock speed in Intel's Xeon line. It follows the release of the chipmaker's 2.6GHz, 2.66GHz and 2.8GHz Xeon chips in September and new supporting chipsets in November.

On Wednesday, Dell and HP were each advertising a pair of workstations fitted with the new chip.

Workstations are powerful desktop computers created for jobs such as the computer-aided design of automobiles or airplanes. The machines represent a fairly small, but often profitable segment of the business PC market.

The less-expensive varieties of these machines use processors such as the new Xeon chip, or Athlon chips from Advanced Micro Devices, and run Microsoft Windows or the Linux operating systems. Higher-priced, and often higher-performance, workstations run proprietary chips and operating systems from their manufacturers. Some workstations from IBM and HP, for example, use the companies' own PowerPC or PA-RISC processors and run their in-house brands of Unix.

The upcoming Xeon is part of Dell's Precision 450 and Precision 650 workstation models. The 3.06GHz chip is a $200 upgrade over a 2.8GHz Xeon in Dell's Precision 450, bumping the price of the most basic configuration of that machine from $2,037 to $2,237, according to Dell's site.

HP is also advertising the chip in two workstation models, its HP xw6000 and HP xw8000.

The 3.06GHz chip is a $400 upgrade from the 2.8GHz Xeon in HP's xw8000, pushing the least-expensive configuration of that model from $2,046 to $2,446, according to HP's site. The xw6000 is advertised online as including the new Xeon, although the option is missing from HP's configuration tool.

When the new Xeon is officially introduced, Intel is expected to offer two versions of the chip, a 3GHz and a 3.06GHz. The main difference between the two chips, aside from their clock speed, will be their bus speeds. The bus, a bridge that carries data between the chip and components such as the chipset and memory inside a computer, will run at 400MHz on the 3GHz and 533MHz on the 3.06GHz.

The new chips are expected to cost about $700 each.

The new Xeon chip will be aimed at single and dual processor workstations and servers; Intel also offers the Xeon MP chip for servers with four or more processors.

While Intel hasn't formally introduced the new Xeon yet, the chipmaker has been shipping production-worthy chips to customers, a company representative confirmed.

Intel plans to launch the chip later this quarter, the representative said.