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Multimedia Pentiums delayed

Intel is pushing back the release of a P55c Pentium chip to next year. Nevertheless, planned Mobile versions of the P55c will be a boon to notebook users.

Monday was busy day for Intel.

First, Intel's introduction of the 150-MHz Mobile Pentium processor was followed by admission that it will delay the release of its P55C multimedia chip. Intel is also planning a less power-hungry and cooler version of the 150-MHz Mobile Pentium, the company said.

Sources also told CNET that the company will unveil a P55c version of its new Mobile chip next year. The P55c mobile Pentium --slated to run at 166-MHz speed grade--uses the company's MMX multimedia technology.

MMX technology, for both mobile and desktop Pentiums, is expected to deliver a performance improvement over traditional Pentium processors ranging from 10 percent to 400 percent, according to Intel.

The mobile chip's introduction is expected in early 1997 since the introduction of all MMX-enabled P55C Pentium chips, including desktop versions, has now been pushed back to the first quarter of 1997 instead of the fourth quarter of this year, an Intel spokesperson said.

Intel officials said the delay was based on their belief that they could not meet the anticipated high demand for the P55c chip in the fourth quarter.

The 166-MHz Mobile P55C Pentium will get its biggest performance boost from software applications written to take advantage of its MMX technology. Most of these applications won't appear until later in 1997, another reason Intel is not hurrying to introduce P55c processors.

Users can expect some vendors to deliver notebook PCs in 1997 with modem and audio software that take advantage of the MMX technology, according to an industry source familiar with notebook vendors' plans.

This may result in notebooks which deliver standard audio and communications at lower prices because less hardware is needed to run these types of applications on an MMX Pentium system. But even without application support, the MMX Pentium will deliver a performance boost of about ten percent because of changes to the chip's design.

On another front, Intel will take further steps to reduce the heat emitted by Mobile Pentiums. As these chips get faster they consequently give off more heat, a critical issue for notebooks.

A second version of the 150-MHz Mobile Pentium will appear this fall, which operates internally at a lower voltage than the chip announced today. The voltage in the next version will drop to 2.9 volts from the current 3.1 volts, an Intel spokesperson said.

Some notebook vendors are waiting for this version of the 150-MHz Mobile Pentium before introducing a 150-MHz notebook. Vendors cited both heat and power consumption issues with the current version as the reason for waiting.