Cyrix is preparing to respond to Intel's upcoming P55C multimedia Pentium onslaught with a multimedia chip of its own that, like Intel's, will ship by year's end and possibly usher in a new class of PCs that will offer dramatic improvements in PC video, sound, and graphics capabilities.
Michael Slater, publisher of the Microprocessor Report newsletter, said such multimedia chips will have some distinct advantages for users interested in feature-laden multimedia PCs. "People who buy PCs with 3D [accelerators], MPEG cards (for video playback), and sound cards probably can eliminate all of these and get comparable performance [with the P55C]. These cards [bought separately] can cost about $500," he said.
Intel is set to debut its P55C next-generation multimedia Pentium technology at San Francisco's Intermedia World '96 on March 5, sources close to the company told CNET Wednesday. The P55C will combine many of the functions that must now be handled by separate chips on graphics, video, and sound cards, thereby improving performance and reducing the cost of multimedia PCs.
Intel had intended to leapfrog its competitors with the introduction of the P55C. But Cyrix is preparing its own chip, code-named M2, that will also have multimedia enhancements to let users experience sound, graphics, and video on low-cost PCs without dishing out a lot of money for add-in cards. Furthermore, the chip's performance will "keep pace with the Pentium Pro," said Cyrix vice president Steve Tobak.
The M2 will be based on the design of Cyrix's currently shipping Pentium-class 6X86 chip and not constitute a whole new generation of processors, Tobak said. This is analogous to the P55C Pentium, which is based on a Pentium core but piles new multimedia capabilities on top of the basic design.
PC games may initially be the biggest beneficiaries of processors like the M2 and the P55C since the graphics, video, and sound in games can tap into the extra multimedia horsepower in these chips.
"You'll probably see software from the gaming companies first," said Tobak. He cautioned that software developers must rewrite their applications to get these dramatic speed improvements and that the chips will probably not be widely supported until next year.