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Intel shelves 800-MHz Xeon chip

Computer makers, including Compaq, apparently have shunned a high-end version of the Pentium III processor.

Intel has canceled plans for high-end versions of its 800-MHz Xeon processor, saying computer makers didn't want the chip.

The Xeon is Intel's high-end version of its Pentium III. The most expensive Xeons come with 1MB or 2MB of high-speed cache memory built into the chip itself.

Intel released 700-MHz versions of these large-cache Xeons in May but decided to skip the 800-MHz version, company spokesman Otto Pijpker said today.

Intel customers such as Compaq Computer "asked us to reduce the pace of large-cache processor introductions," Pijpker said. The move had nothing to do with Intel's ability to make the chips, he said.

Compaq spokesman Steve Thieme concurred.

"Our customers are looking for less frequent updates with larger incremental gains," he said. "We certainly relay our customer requirements to Intel."

Indeed, computer makers have a lot of work to do to keep up with Intel's upcoming high-end chip launches for server computers, said Insight 64 analyst Nathan Brookwood.

The Itanium chip, the first in a new family of higher-powered 64-bit chips from Intel, will launch in the next few months at speeds of 800 MHz, with Level 3 cache of 2MB and 4MB, Pijpker said.

Foster, a new update to the existing 32-bit chip line and successor to Xeon, will debut in the first quarter of 2001 at speeds greater than 1 GHz, Pijpker added.

But even without those new lines, just keeping up with the existing Cascades line of current Pentium III and Xeon chips is difficult, Brookwood said.

"Every time Intel comes out with a new speed bump in the current Cascades line, these guys have to stop and qualify not only uniprocessor models, but dual-processor, four-way, eight-way...None of those qualifications is easy work."

In an effort to adjust to the different demands of higher-end marketplaces, Intel has been trying to ease back on how fast new chips come out.

"For a while we tried really hard to keep up with the desktop space. But the customer feedback was that, in general, they weren't going to introduce servers at the same rate they introduce new PCs," Pijpker said.