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Intel Recalls 1.13GHz Pentium

As AMD released their 1.1GHz Athlon yesterday, Intel was recalling the fastest chip on the market, their 1.13GHz Pentium III. This returns AMD to the top of the clock rate wars and raises questions about Intel’s roadmap.

Intel Corp. (www.intel.com) has experienced a number of embarrassing setbacks in the past few months. In March, Advance Micro Devices Corp. (AMD, www.amd.com) bested Intel with the first processor with a 1GHz clock rate. Intel soon caught up, but the 1GHz Pentium suffered from low availability. Last month, Intel acknowledged that its long awaited 64-bit Itanium would be further pushed back - speculation suggested that Intel was unable to produce it at a clock rate that meets current market expectations.

Intel briefly had the fastest chip on the market, its 1.13 GHz Pentium III, but some hardware enthusiast sites, including Tom’s Hardware (www.tomshardware.com) reviled it, since it required a special motherboard, cooling unit, and a special microcode update in order for the chip to work properly. The Pentium III was neither roadmapped or designed to operate at this high of a clockspeed.

Tom’s Hardware and another hardware site, HardOCP (www.hardocp.com) discovered that the new Pentium was unstable in performing a routine, yet calculation intensive, operation. When the sites attempted to compile a Linux kernel, the system often froze or halted in the middle of the process. Linux enthusiasts often recompile kernels when updating the software for new hardware or installing a new, more efficient version of the kernel.

Intel engineers replicated the problem and ordered the recall yesterday, offering replacements or refunds through the OEMs offering 1.13 GHz systems.

While some users have pointed to this and other problems as the beginning of an Intel market decline, Intel is a highly diversified chip maker, creating chips for everything from network infrastructure to specialized low power chips for PDAs. In constrast, AMD’s market share is limited to desktops and a few specialized market controllers.

Christopher McConnell

About the Author

Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.

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