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PostPost subject: Intel Cancels Top-Speed Pentium 4 Chip
Posted: Sat Oct 16, 2004 5:32 am
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SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Intel Corp. on Thursday canceled plans to introduce its highest-speed desktop computer chip, ending for now a 25-year run that has seen the speeds of Intel's microprocessors increase by more than 750 times.

The unexpected move also adds to a string of product changes, cancellations and recalls that has roiled the world's largest chip maker this year. Intel shares fell 2.3 percent.

Both Intel and its arch-rival, Advanced Micro Devices Inc., have shifted their focus from increasing clock speed -- a measure of how fast a chip can crunch numbers -- to a less quantitative goal of performance encompassing multi-tasking, security, and multimedia.

Intel will shift engineers and other resources to its dual-core project, which envisions chips that have the power of two microprocessors in a single package, spokesman Chuck Mulloy said. Intel has plans to sell dual-core chips for mobile, desktop and server computers next year.

Intel President Paul Otellini, who is expected to take over the company next year, has spoken often about the advantages of multiple-core chips in an era when computers are tasked with handling more than one task at once, such as playing music and making a home video.

Since the introduction of the 5-megahertz 8088 processor in 1979, Intel has cranked up the clock speed of its PC chips with remarkable consistency, until now. Intel's 3.8 gigahertz Pentium 4 chip -- which is equivalent to 3,800 megahertz -- will be the fastest on the market for the foreseeable future.

It was the second time that Intel has announced problems with its plan to boost the Pentium 4 chip to a speed of 4 gigahertz. In July, the chip maker said it would miss its year-end deadline on the part.

Intel could not produce the chip in high enough volumes without additional engineering resources, which it determined would be better spent on a new line of chips to be introduced next year, Mulloy said.

"It's not an easy decision to walk away from four gigahertz because we had a public position, but in our view for Intel and for our customers it's the right decision," Mulloy said.

The product cancellation adds to an already bumpy year for Intel, which delayed a new line of notebook computer chips in January, recalled a desktop computer chip in June and pushed back another notebook chip in July.

Chief Executive Craig Barrett sent a stern memo to Intel's 80,000 employees in July after the setbacks -- weeks before another delay, of a chip for rear-projection televisions.

Cranking up the speed of its Pentium 4 chips to four gigahertz, or billions of cycles per second, has been an elusive goal for Intel. When the latest rendition of the Pentium 4 was introduced in February, Intel said it would reach the 4 gigahertz speed by the end of the year.
In July, citing concerns about having enough supply to meet customer demand, Intel delayed plans for four gigahertz until the end of March 2005. Thursday's announcement puts an end to the goal entirely, at least for the current generation of processors.

The chip industry's own technologists have long predicted engineers would face bigger and bigger hurdles as they cranked up chip speeds. Intel Chief Technology Officer Patrick Gelsinger has famously said that without a fundamental change in chip design, within a decade PC chips operating at much higher speeds would become as hot as the surface of the sun.

Shares of Intel fell 48 cents to $20.51 on Nasdaq.

? Reuters 2004. All Rights Reserved.
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