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Centaur enters cheap chip market

Centaur Technology announces a Pentium-class Intel-compatible MMX processor designed for the sub-$1,500 personal computer market.

Centaur Technology, a wholly owned subsidiary of Integrated Device Technology (IDT) today announced the IDT-C6, a Pentium-class Intel-compatible MMX microprocessor designed for the sub-$1,500 personal computer market, adding yet another competitor to this increasingly crowded market.

The chip isn't expected to be available in volume production until late in the second half of this year. It is expected to run at speeds as high as 200 MHz. Currently Intel's Pentium processor peaks at 200 MHz.

The low-power C6 will compete not only with inexpensive Intel processors but dirt-cheap processors from Advanced Micro Devices and Cyrix. AMD's Pentium-class K5 processor, for example, is now priced well below $100 and is used in sub-$1,000 business PCs from Hewlett-Packard.

"As AMD and Cyrix have shown, it is a long and bumpy road from having a paper tiger to actually taking it to volume production and procuring design (customer) wins," said Ashok Kumar, an analyst at Southcoast Capital, a market research firm in Austin, Texas.

The IDT-C6 processor is between 40 and 50 percent smaller than comparable Pentium-class processors, the company says. This was achieved "by simplifying the architecture and eliminating or reducing complex [circuits] found in other processors," according to the company.

The chip will fit into the Pentium processor "Socket 7" (receptacle) on existing Pentium circuit boards, making it relatively easy for PC manufacturers to plug this chip into existing low-cost PC designs.

"Our goal is to extend the life of the Socket 7 infrastructure by delivering industry-leading price performance and working closely with chipset and BIOS vendors," said Glenn Henry, president of Centaur Technology in a prepared statement. The IDT-C6 processor will include "MMX-compatible instructions," the company added.

Based on testing by Centaur, the processor runs all leading operating systems, including Windows 95, Windows NT, Windows 3.x, MS-DOS, Novell Netware, OS/2 Warp, and Solaris, as well as other software packages and the latest MMX-enabled multimedia applications.

The IDT-C6 processor was designed by Centaur Technology and will be manufactured at IDT's semiconductor plants in Hillsboro, Oregon, and San Jose, California.

Engineering samples of the IDT-C6 processor are available to target customers. No pricing was announced.