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1-GHz Pentium III computers coming this month

Consumers will likely be able to buy PCs containing 1-GHz chips later this month, a lurch forward in the release date of these systems, sources say.

Consumers will likely be able to buy PCs containing 1-GHz chips later this month, a lurch forward in the release date of these systems, sources said today.

Hewlett-Packard will start shipping consumer PCs containing Intel's Pentium III running at 1 GHz (1,000 megahertz) later this month, sources at HP said. Corporate computers containing these chips won't come out until June.

Likewise, IBM is expected to make an announcement regarding 1-GHz systems next week, sources said. With the anticipation building around 1-GHz systems, consumers should be able to buy whatever computers are available soon after the shipping dates.

The release of these computers could hand Intel a symbolic victory over rival Advanced Micro Devices. Since last August, when AMD first released its Athlon processor, the two companies have been engaged in a game of leapfrog with regard to chip speed. When AMD released a 750-MHz Athlon late last year, for instance, Intel accelerated the release of an 800-MHz Pentium III. AMD followed shortly afterward with an 850-MHz Athlon.

Both companies have publicly said that their 1-GHz chips will come in the second half or the middle of this year.

AMD has been able to speed up Athlon with relative ease, according to a number of analysts. Therefore, a counter-announcement that computer makers will release 1-GHz Athlon PCs in the near future wouldn't be a surprise.

Although chip speeds have accelerated faster than expected because of the race, the competition has created supply problems. Consumers and dealers have complained for a number of months that they cannot find enough of Intel's fastest Pentium IIIs. AMD has faced similar, but not nearly as extensive, shortages at the top end of the Athlon line.

The 1-GHz systems, therefore, could be a tight commodity. HP might start shipping these computers, but only a few customers will get their hands on them.

Volume production and sales of 1-GHz Pentium III systems is expected by the third quarter, according to Howard High, an Intel spokesman. Another Intel spokesman said that systems will appear shortly.

Of course, the value of these systems will be largely symbolic. Intel is still slated to come out with 866-MHz and a 933-MHz versions of the Pentium III.

"No one is going to jump the gun on the 933-MHz," deadpanned Linley Gwennap, principal at the Linley Group, adding, "The big question is who needs a 1-GHz processor."

At the Intel Developer Forum in Palm Springs in February, Intel showed off pre-production systems from Dell Computer, IBM and HP containing 1-GHz Pentium IIIs. Existence of pre-production computers means that 1-GHz chips exist and that all three companies have completed the basic design issues to produce 1-GHz systems commercially.

In the second half of the year, Intel will introduce the "Willamette" processor, the successor to the Pentium III, according to Albert Yu, senior vice president at Intel. Willamette will come out at 1-GHz or faster. Willamette is the code-name for the chip. The final brand name will likely leverage the Pentium brand.