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Toshiba, IBM ready fast PCs

The computer makers will introduce Pentium II workstations built to run Windows NT when Intel rolls out its latest chip next week.

Toshiba and IBM (IBM) will introduce Pentium II workstation-class systems built to run Windows NT when Intel rolls out its new chip next week.

Intel will announce the Pentium II processor line May 7 as a follow-up to its current Pentium Pro. The chip is slated to debut at speeds of 233, 266, and 300 MHz. The chip is initially targeted at high-end PCs, including so-called personal workstations.

The Pentium II differs from the Pentium Pro in several areas, including a radical new design that packages the chip and high-speed cache memory in a cartridge the size of an audio cassette. The Pentium II also has MMX technology; the Pentium Pro does not. The Pentium II can also run older 16-bit applications faster than the Pentium Pro.

The systems from Toshiba and IBM will target high-end users needing workstation-level performance but also wanting to run business applications, according to both companies. The new systems will come bundled with Windows NT rather than Windows 95, the companies added.

Toshiba will debut a series of systems designed for "people doing software development, engineering, complex modeling, and design," it said. Price will be comparable to current Toshiba Pentium Pro systems. The new systems will compete with dedicated workstations such as those sold by Silicon Graphics and Sun Microsystems, the company added.

Analysts believe that the first Pentium II systems will essentially be marketed as workstation-class Pentium Pro systems are today. "This is a follow to the Pentium Pro for current positioning. [Windows] NT makes perfect sense for corporate systems coming out now. It is a business OS and a pure 32-bit environment," said Dean McCarron, an analyst at Mercury Research, a marketing research firm in Scottsdale, Arizona, referring to the fact that Windows 95 includes a good deal of older 16-bit technology.

The market for Pentium II systems will basically be for high-end PCs costing $3,000 and up, he said. "It's not until [the fourth quarter] that we will see positioning in the consumer space," he added.

IBM, which already makes workstations, will release Pentium II systems May 7 offering "near-workstation performance" combined with traditional business applications, according to the company.

Configurations will again target the higher end of the market with built-in memory starting at 32MB. Although the systems will not replace its professional workstation product line, IBM recognizes that they will benefit and compete in the workstation market, particularly in engineering applications and other areas requiring large amounts of floating point performance, IBM representatives said.

IBM's systems will be available immediately upon announcement of the new processor.