Intel Corp., trying to extend its dominance of the computer chip industry into the next century, on Wednesday unveiled the Pentium Pro.
The new chip, available at speeds of up to 200 megahertz and expected to get even faster, initially will be used in the powerful computers used by business. Pentium Pro systems, starting at about $2,600, will deliver the same performance now found on more costly computers, Intel and analysts said.
“Those machines are going to stack up very well against machines … costing $20,000. That’s very compelling,” said Linley Gwennap, editor of the Microprocessor Report newsletter in Sebastopol, Calif.
But Pentium Pro should in the late 1990s become the chip of choice in the booming home personal computer market, now dominated by Intel’s earlier-generation Pentium, which has not yet hit its peak.
“In the long term it will make the lion’s share of Intel’s revenues and earnings,” Mark Edelstone, an analyst with Prudential Securities Research in San Francisco, said of the new chip.
“But that’s just as we saw happen with the 286 to 386, the 386 to 486, the 486 to Pentium,” he added.
The world’s largest maker of computer chips formally unveiled Pentium Pro in San Francisco. The first processors run at 150-200 MHz, faster than the 133 MHz announced in February. Versions next year are expected to top 250 MHz.
The chip rollout was greeted well by investors. Intel’s stock was among the most heavily traded Wednesday, rising $1 a share to $70.875 on the Nasdaq Stock Market.
Pentium Pro, previously codenamed P6, has 5.5 million transistors, compared the 3.1 million on the Pentium, which was released in early 1993. Pentium, while now available at speeds up to 133 MHz and soon 150 MHz, originally was a then-scorching 60 MHz.
The new chip delivers more performance than its predecessor because it decides the most efficient order to execute multiple instructions. Pentium carries out multiple instructions in the order given.
Prices range from $974 to $1,682 but are expected to drop as sales increase, as has been the case with Intel’s previous chips. Several big computer companies - Unisys, Compaq, Hewlett-Packard and Digital - followed Intel’s unveiling by announcing Pentium Pro systems ranging from $2,600 workstations to $20,000 servers.
“Pentium Pro processor-based systems will bring PC economics into market segments that haven’t seen PC-style price-performance in the past,” Senior Vice President G. Carl Everett said.
“These systems are excellent solutions for high-end applications in the financial, visual computing, and scientific and technical worlds,” he said.
Intel, based in Santa Clara, Calif., has more than three-quarters of the market for chips, the silicon brains of computers. The company has sought to stay ahead by hastening the pace at which it introduces new chips.
Intel is feeling some heat from its smaller challengers like Cyrix Corp. and NexGen Corp., which will soon merge with Advanced Micro Devices. Cyrix and NexGen have Pentium rivals, and NexGen has designed a PentiumPro competitor.
Those companies could gain in the short term because their chips do a better job than Pentium Pro at running programs written for older versions of Microsoft Corp.’s Windows operating software popular among home users. Pentium Pro was designed to work best with heavy-duty operating programs such as Microsoft Corp.’s Windows NT and IBM’s OS/2, primarily used by businesses.
Daniel Klesken, an analyst with Robertson, Stephens & Co. in San Francisco, said Intel had expected Windows NT to be more widely used than it is now. The delay in introducing Windows 95 pushed back the move to Windows NT.
But he and other analysts said that miscalculation won’t hurt Intel much in the long run.