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Start-up releases low-cost chip plans

Intel-compatible chipmaker Rise Technology has released a road map of future processors, targeting the low-end of the PC market.

Hoping to capitalize on recent turmoil in the PC processor market, Rise Technology officially released its roadmap for chips in the sub-$600 PC market and confirmed it will release a chip compatible with Intel's Celeron.

As previously reported, Rise Technology will bring out faster chips and one compatible with Intel's Celeron processor.

Rise is one of a handful of companies striving to make a mark in the potentially lucrative, yet highly precarious market for low-cost PC processors. Millions of PC processors get shipped quarterly, a number that is increasing as prices continue to drop and as these chips find their way into intelligent set-top boxes. Unfortunately, nearly everyone is losing money fulfilling demand because of relentless price cuts.

Currently, Rise sells processors that can equal the performance of 233-MHz and 266-MHz processors from Intel or AMD, according to the company.

Although this puts Rise at the lagging edge as far as performance is concerned, the company will pick up the pace when it releases in volume chips running at the equivalent of 333-MHz and 366-MHz in the third quarter and 380-MHx, 400-MHz and 433-MHz in the fourth quarter.

Towards the end of the year, the company will also begin to produce samples of chips that can fit into the same "Socket 370" PC circuit boards designed for Celeron processors, a first for an Intel competitor, as well as come out with chips including 256KB of performance-enhancing cache memory.

Manufacturing chips, however, is only part of the battle in PC processors. Plummeting prices have stripped manufacturers of nearly all of the current potential profits in this segment. AMD earlier this year reported significant financial losses while National Semiconductor said it was selling its Cyrix processor division because of competitive difficulties. Meanwhile, Rise's closest competitor, IDT recently admitted it was seeking outside funding.

Rise's difficulties can be seen in the small barrier between its cost and its retail prices. The Rise mP6 processor costs around $45 to make, according to a study from MicroDesign Resources. U.S. retailers sell it for between $30 and $60, when they sell it at all. So far, Rise has sold most of its processors into more cost-conscious overseas markets.

Rise, however, remains optimistic. CEO David Lin recently said that demand was climbing, especially with the exit of Cyrix.

"We are going through major financing for our product ramp," he said in a recent interview. adding: "We are recruiting people like crazy."