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Intel plans next Pentium 4 for 2003

The chipmaker is readying a new version of the Pentium 4, called Prescott, and a slate of initiatives to make computers and phones sleeker and smaller.

SAN FRANCISCO--Intel plans to come out with a new version of the Pentium 4 next year and to push a slate of initiatives to make computers and phones sleeker and smaller.

The next version of the Pentium 4, code-named Prescott, will enhance desktop performance through hyper-threading, among other changes, Intel's Louis Burns, vice president of the Desktop Platforms Group, said at the four-day Intel Developer Forum here. Burns also demonstrated a 4GHz Pentium 4, which should come out sometime next year.

Prescott was among a number of announcements Wednesday. Santa Clara, Calif.-based Intel also discussed improved power-management technologies that will come with Pentium 4 notebooks, expected to debut March 4, as well as integrated processors for next-generation cell phones.

Hyper-threading allows a single processor to handle two different applications or application threads at the same time. The technology debuted commercially earlier this week in Prestonia, a new Intel server chip. Circuitry for hyper-threading is included in current Pentium 4 chips, but it is not activated, because few current desktop applications can take advantage of it, according to Intel sources.

Additionally, Prescott PCs will be: smaller than current desktops, equipped with wireless networking as a standard feature, and easier to link to cameras and stereos. "They (customers) don't want to have three tech guys in the garage to help them work it," Burns said.

Prescott's debut in the second half of 2003 will be complemented later by the emergence of 3GIO, a component connection standard. 3GIO will likely affect consumers in two ways. First, it will speed up how the processor communicates with graphics processors, network cards, printers and other peripherals, thereby increasing performance.

Second, 3GIO will free engineers from design constraints by eliminating motherboard channels and other electrical design conventions, leading to a wider variety of computer styles. In 2003 or 2004, for instance, Dell Computer plans to come out with desktop PCs based on what it calls an "Evo-Revo" design that will let consumers plug in or remove MP3 players or portable hard drives like they would Lego pieces.

"We want to get to some modular form" for computer peripherals, said Brian Zucker, technology evangelist for Dell's small-business and consumer products division. "If we can keep the costs low and have a high-speed serial link, why not?"

Advanced Micro Devices will vigorously compete with Intel. The Sunnyvale, Calif.-based company expects to come out with its next-generation desktop processor, code-named Clawhammer, by the fourth quarter of 2002. AMD has been showing off samples of its forthcoming chip in a hotel two blocks away from Intel's convention.

Among other features, Clawhammer will come with an integrated memory controller, which connects the processor to memory, and will be able to run 64-bit applications, which will begin to trickle into the Intel-AMD world, said Fred Weber, AMD's chief technology officer. The integration of the memory controller alone should boost performance by up to 20 percent over existing AMD chips, he said.

"Because of AMD's credibility, it won't take as long as in the past to get into commercial markets," Weber said. "We enhanced the performance mostly in architecture rather than (boosting clock) frequency."

Portable plans
The Pentium 4 will also move to notebooks soon, said Anand Chandrasekher, vice president and general manager of Intel's Mobile Platforms Group, who showed off a Pentium 4 notebook decoding high-definition television streams. The Pentium 4 mobile chips will also feature an enhanced version of SpeedStep, which saves energy by slowing down the processor when unplugged and offers a deeper sleep mode.

A number of PC makers next week will announce new, high-end notebooks based on the Pentium 4-M chips.

Among them will be Dell, which is expected to announce a Pentium 4-M machine in its Inspiron 8200 notebook line. Compaq Computer is also expected to announce a new Presario with the chip. Meanwhile, sources anticipate that Toshiba will launch several new computers, including a Satellite notebook, with the new chip. Gateway and IBM are likely to launch their Pentium 4-M notebooks at a later date.

Most PC makers will introduce Pentium 4-M notebooks at the high end of their lines. They will likely include several other high-end features with the notebooks, which should carry a price tag of about $2,000.

Buyers should expect to see, for example, notebooks with 15-inch screens, hard drives up to 60GB, combination CD-RW/DVD drives and high-end graphics cards, a Compaq executive said.

As previously reported, the new Pentium 4-M chips will run at 1.6GHz and 1.7GHz.

Intel, sources said, also plans to add 1.5GHz and possibly 1.4GHz Pentium 4-M chips in late April. These chips will be priced lower than the new 1.6GHz and 1.7GHz processors, allowing PC makers to offer Pentium 4-M notebooks closer to the $1,500 mark, sources said.

In the first half of 2003, the company will then follow up with Banias, a low-power notebook chip for ultrathin notebooks being designed in Israel, and a companion chipset called Odem.

Pentium 4 and Banias will coexist next year, but the future will belong to the new chip, said Chandrasekher. "Over time, we do anticipate that the notebook market will transition to the Banias class of processor," he said.

On the wireless watch
Intel will also make a continued push into the cell phone arena with "wireless Internet on a chip" processors for cell phones. The chips will combine a microprocessor, communications functions and memory--all the basic necessary chips for a cell phone. Integrated processors generally reduce manufacturing costs and power consumption. Intel said it has developed an integrated chip for so-called 2.5G phones and a communications chip for 3G phones in its labs.

Along with manufacturing components, Intel has formed a developer network to recruit software publishers to its technology and away from Texas Instruments, its main competitor in this field.

"If the cell phone continues to be voice-only, Intel has no base in the cell phone market," said Tony Sica, vice president of Intel's Wireless Communications and Computing Group. "If the industry is successful in providing data services, we will win."

Some application developers showing off forthcoming wares this week include Picsel Technologies, which has created a browser that lets handhelds display complete Web pages and video images. Manufacturers will release phones containing the company's application in the fourth quarter, said Ali Adnan, a customer representative for Picsel. Samsung and NEC are two of the larger companies discussing deals with the company, he added.

Separately, Microsoft and Intel said on Wednesday Microsoft has optimized Windows CE.Net to run on Intel's XScale chips.

News.com's John G. Spooner contributed to this report.