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Intel to make 16 kinds of Pentium II

The company's strategy aims to make chips for as many price and design points as possible without changing the chip's packaging.

SAN FRANCISCO--Intel's (INTC) strategy for this year borrows from an old American tradition: make a processor for every pot.

Or at least a large number of different chips for servers and workstations.

Similar to its strategy on desktops, Intel will release a wide variety of Pentium II processors based on its next-generation "Slot 2" architecture, which defines the chip's new packaging and improved performance characterisitics.

Intel's Pentium II menu for 1998
High end servers and workstations
400-MHz Slot 2 chips (with up to 2MB of built-in cache memory)
450-MHz Slot 2 chip (with up to 2MB of built-in cache memory)
High end desktops and mid-range servers
333-MHz, 350-MHz, 400-MHz and 450-MHz Slot 1 chips
Low end desktops
Slot 1 chips with either no cache or 256KB of integrated cache
233-MHz, 266-MHz and 300-MHz Pentium IIs to start.

Slot 2 designs, due midyear, are targeted at the high end of the computer market, mostly servers and workstations, the company said today at the International Solid-States Circuits Conference here.

There will be at least six different Slot 2 Pentium IIs released this year, mostly differentiated by processor speed. This will complement the release of at least four "Slot 1"--the current Pentium II architecture--chip designs for high-end desktops and low-end servers, including a 450-MHz desktop chip capable of running DVD titles with processing power to spare.

In addition, there will be three Slot 1 Pentium IIs for low-end computers and three more for sub-$1,000 computers. That comes to 16 Pentium IIs, at a minimum.

Intel's strategy essentially aims to make chips for as many price and design points as possible, said Mike Fister, vice president of manufacturing and product development for the microprocessor group at Intel. Essentially, there will be more chips, but most will be fairly interchangeable with standard computer designs.

"We are taking the core technology design and moving it across a line of products," he said. "You can hide the evolution of the processor in the cartridge," he added, referring to the packaging the Pentium II comes in.

The first generation of Slot 2 processors, for instance, will run at 400 MHz, communicate with other components at a faster speed of 100 MHz, and include 512KB of high-speed cache memory. Subsequently, Intel will release versions containing cache memory of 1MB and 2MB, he said. Generally, the more cache memory, the better the performance.

Intel will follow that with three 450-MHz Slot 2 Pentium II models at the end of the year, said Manny Vara, an Intel spokesman.

For desktops, Intel will follow the recent release of the 333-MHz Pentium II with versions running at 350 MHz and 400 MHz at the middle of the year and a 450-MHz version at the end of the year.

Intel demonstrated the latter here in screening "The Terminator" on a DVD drive. All of these will use the current Slot 1 design.

Slot 2 chips will differ from their Slot 1 counterparts in a number of aspects, Fister said. First, the slot on Slot 2 chips will be longer and the packaging and the processor core itself will be larger.

Specifications will come out in the middle of the year. He added, however, that the processor itself will be close to the same size as the venerable Pentium Pro.

Slot 2 chips are also capable of higher levels of multiprocessing, critical for penetrating the high-end corporate "enterprise" market. Whereas computer vendors can only use two Pentium IIs at once in standard server designs, they will be able to use eight at once with Slot 2, resulting in much more powerful computers.

All processors using the Slot 2 design will be made on the advanced 0.25 micron process.

At least three Pentium IIs will come out for the mobile arena. These will run at 233 MHz, 266 MHz, and 300 MHz, said Intel's Vara. Mobile chips using the faster 100-MHz system "bus" communication speed coming later. Intel earlier said that there will be two kinds of packaging for these mobile processors.

On the low end, Intel will release at least three chips for the sub-$1,000 market.

Despite the concentration on Slot-style chips, Intel will continue to make Pentium MMX chips, which rely on a "Socket 7" design, at least through 1998.