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Rising to the chip challenge

Rise Technology officially enters the Intel clone market today with chips that are deliberately priced at the very bottom of the market.

Rise Technology officially entered the Intel clone market today with chips that are deliberately priced at the very bottom of the market. .

Rise, which is one of five companies selling a microprocessor based around Intel's "X86" processor architecture, is attempting to carve a niche for itself as a low-cost, low-power silicon provider. The thermal and cost parameters of Rise's mP6 chips are designed to allow vendors to create small, and relatively inexpensive, notebooks and set-top boxes.

"We've really focused on a lot of ways of wringing cost out of the design," said Joe Salvador, senior product manager at Rise.

The new chips come amid a wave of low-cost components based around the Intel architecture. Chipset vendors Via Technologies and Acer Laboratories have developed chipsets with integrated 2D/3D graphics. Intel will come out with one code-named Whitney in the second half of 1999.

With these, computer vendors can drop the overall cost of a consumer PC (because multiple functions are fused into fewer chips) and at the same time enhance the visual experience. Audio and modem functions are also being fused into multi-function chips.

The mP6 chips released by Rise today don't break any speed records. The fastest runs at 266 MHz and the slowest at 166 MHz. Instead, where they excel is in the price department. The 166-MHz version of the mP6 sells for $50 in volume, while the 233-MHz and 266-MHz versions of the chip sell for $60 and $70 respectively. This makes the chips comparable in price to X86 processors from Cyrix, but lower than those from Intel or Advanced Micro Devices.

Rise's chips also consume on average less power than other chips in this market, according to Salvador, which means computer vendors can wring more battery life out of notebooks or build smaller computers. Both notebook vendors and set-top box manufacturers are in discussions with Rise over adopting the mP6, he added.