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Friday, February 26, 1999 Published at 12:33 GMT


Supermarket leads Pentium III launch

The PIII's unique serial numbers have led to privacy protests

By Internet Correspondent Chris Nuttall

The Tesco supermarket chain has claimed it is the first retailer in the world to put Pentium III computers on the shelves on Friday.

Intel's new chip got its official launch as Fujitsu Myrica computers with 450Mhz PIIIs inside went on sale at midnight in Tesco's 24-hour supermarkets. By this morning, the computers were on sale in 250 stores.

The PCs, with 128Mb of RAM, 10Gb hard drives, 56k modems and 17" displays were priced at a competitive £1,180 including VAT.

"We want our customers to get the best machines at the best prices," said Commercial Director John Gildersleeve.

"We believe our entry into the PC market has helped to halve prices in the last 18 months."

Privacy group plans FTC complaint

A privacy group in the United States was planning to put a damper on Intel's biggest launch of the year by filing a complaint to the Federal Trade Commission later on Friday.

The Centre for Democracy and Technology (CDT) says the unique Processor Serial Number (PSN) on each chip will allow users to be tracked over the Internet and its inclusion amounts to "unfair and deceptive practices".

In a letter to the CDT on Wednesday, IBM said it was disabling the feature at the BIOS level. This would require a user to go through a BIOS setup program to turn it on - not the most easily-accessible of configuration options.

"Although there are constructive ways to use the processor ID feature to validate user identification, there are also legitimate privacy concerns raised by the potential misuse of this feature," said IBM in the letter.

A coalition of privacy groups has already urged a boycott of the chip and sent a letter to the FTC calling for an investigation.

Intel shows off gigahertz chip

Intel says the PSN will make it safer for consumers and businesses to buy products over the Internet. It is making available software to allow users to set the default to off for access to the number.

The PIII has 70 new instructions on the chip which will boost multimedia performance, in particular 3-D, full-motion video and voice processing.

It may appeal most to gamers, with other computer buyers looking for bargains as Intel slashes the prices of its Pentium II chips. Others may want to wait till next year for the one-gigahertz version, double the speed of the 500Mhz chip on sale from today.

Intel demonstrated the gigahertz chip, capable of one billion instructions a second, this week, but had to specially cool it to achieve the mark.

Intel's rival Advanced Micro Devices tried to steal its thunder this week, announcing its next-generation K6-III chip. It said it outperformed the PIII on leading business and consumer applications.

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