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Pentium III will be name for Katmai

Intel's next-generation chip gets the Pentium III handle, a marketing decision that lets the company use its most successful brand name once again.

Pentium III will be the name of the next-generation chip from Intel, sources close to the company have confirmed, a marketing decision that allows the company to use its most successful brand name a fifth time.

Code-named Katmai, the processor will become the standard-bearer for Intel's performance desktop chip line. It's based around a Pentium II core, but contains 70 additional instructions that boost multimedia performance.

Video will run more smoothly on a Pentium III, for example, because a given computer can process more frames per second. Game programs will also be able to incorporate algorithms that improve how objects appear to move.

As reported earlier, the chip is due in early March and will come out running at clock speeds of 450 MHz and 500 MHz. It will then reach speeds of more than 600 MHz before the end of the year, Intel has said.

Initially, the upcoming chip will cost more than $500 but will likely sink to the $200 range by the third quarter, according to analyst Ashok Kumar of Piper Jaffray.

The Pentium III name was first reported by Advertising Age in December, which also said Intel would advertise the name heavily at the Super Bowl. The ads are still planned, said sources close to Intel, but the release of the name comes before the game, because the chip needs to be shipped to computer makers.

Intel advertised its Pentium II during last year's Super Bowl, airing a whodunit spoof in which a Pentium II was taken from an Intel clean room.

That the Pentium name would live on was hardly in doubt. Earlier this week, Paul Otellini, executive vice president of the Intel architecture business group, strongly indicated that Katmai would share the Pentium name in a press conference. "We have a lot of equity in the Pentium name," he said. Future desktop processors will have "presumably a Pentium name," he stated at the time.

Pentium has been Intel's most successful brand name to date. The chipmaking giant kicked off consumer advertising when it first released the Pentium in the mid-90s, and went on to apply the Pentium name to the Pentium MMX chip, the Pentium Pro, and the Pentium II.

By contrast, other Intel brand names have not fared as well. Celeron and Xeon, Intel's brand names for its budget PC and server chips, respectively, have been lampooned in a number of articles. Commentators have said that the names sound like space-age gladiators, chemical laminates, and characters from the TV show Xena: Warrior Princess.

Pentium III will also save money. "They don't have to spend incremental dollars for brand recognition," said Kumar.