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IBM drops Cyrix processor

IBM PC Company abandons the 6X86 processor, manufactured both by Big Blue's microelectronics division and Cyrix.

Despite the fact that its microelectronics division makes the 6X86 processor, IBM has quietly dropped the chip from its Aptiva line of home PCs.

IBM's migration from the chip, an Intel-compatible processor which is manufactured by IBM and marketed under the Cyrix and IBM brand names, is symbolic of the intensifying competition among Cyrix, Advanced Micro Devices, and Intel.

"It's not great news," said Dean McCarron, principal analyst at Mercury Research. "I'm sure they represented a large percentage of sales."

IBM stopped incorporating the 6X86 into computers this year, said William Runyon, an IBM spokesman. The chip was being used in the E-series of Aptiva home computers, which now incorporates K6 processors from Advanced Micro Devices at the low end and Intel Pentium II chips in more expensive models.

IBM was the only major computer vendor using the chip. Domestically, most 6X86 chips get used by smaller vendors such as CTX International or dealers who build their own computers.

Runyon declined to explain the shift in detail, but said that product design was cyclical.

Last year, IBM adopted a 166-MHz Cyrix 6X86 chip for its Aptiva E40, a PC exclusively distributed through Radio Shack. Later, IBM incorporated an IBM-made version of the chip in the E14, one of Big Blue's first low-priced computers.

IBM lost its Radio Shack alliance to Compaq earlier this year, which spelled the end for the E40. The E14 is still featured on IBM's Web site, however Runyon said it is no longer being manufactured.

The setback aside, McCarron said that relatively healthy demand for the 6X86 continues to exist overseas. "They are acceptably in Europe, Latin America. They would be in Asia but people aren't buying there right now," he said.

Cyrix shipped approximately 500,000 of the chips last quarter, he added, a number equal to the total of MediaGX chips the company shipped.