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Intel gunning for embedded market

The chipmaker will start marketing Celerons, currently being used inside desktop PCs, to industrial monitoring devices, ATM machines, and other embedded applications.

Intel will start marketing Celeron chips--currently being used inside desktop PCs--to industrial monitoring devices, oil derrick equipment, ATM machines, and other "embedded" applications, an effort that could open new revenue opportunities for the company. .

"The uptake of PC technology into these spaces is much more rapid than anyone could have predicted in the past," said Ron Smith, vice president of the Computer Enhancement Group at Intel. "We're very serious about going after it."

As part of the effort, the company introduced Celerons running at 300 MHz and 366 MHz for the industrial market. Medical imaging and other high-end equipment makers, meanwhile, are looking at incorporating the Pentium III into their products.

The shift is subtle but could potentially prove significant. Intel for years has sold its older PC processors to industrial equipment manufacturers and devices makers. The 486 and Pentium processors, for instance, power a number of industrial products. Many of the alphanumeric pagers from Bell South and others are powered by X86 processors, said Smith.

Intel, however, has not regularly sold current desktop processors for these applications. By increasing the performance of their embedded processor offerings, Intel could potentially increase its market share, which is not huge, especially in comparison to the PC market.

Increased emphasis on industrial and consumer electronics could also increase sales of flash memory, board products, and graphics chips because the company can design "all-in-one" solutions.

PC synchronicity is driving the industrial effort, said Smith. As more industrial equipment is hooked up to Internet networks, there is a larger need for common technology systems, he said. By contrast, ATM machines and consumer-centric devices are running more multimedia applications, which often emerge from the PC platform.

Success, of course, is far from guaranteed. Motorola has led this market for a number of years. Processors for this market also sell for relatively low prices. Smith indicated that the industrial Celerons would sell for the same price as desktop Celerons.