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Tuesday, 7 March, 2000, 12:20 GMT
Intel's speedy response
One billion operations per second
One billion operations per second
Computer chip giant Intel is expected to hit back at rivals Advanced Micro Devices on Wednesday with an announcement about its own one gigahertz processor.

On Monday, AMD beat Intel to become the first to sell a processor which runs at 1GHz at room temperature. It is just six years since Intel revealed the first 100MHz chip.

Nathan Brookwood, principal analyst at US consulting firm Insight 64 said: "It is a huge milestone. This is at least as big a deal as the millennium transition was to the calendar."

Benchmark boost

PC World magazine has already tested AMD's 1GHz chip and says its results "prove the CPU delivers its promised boost".

However, it adds that Intel's fastest current systems (800MHz) "hold up well against AMD's [1GHz] CPUs in early benchmark tests". This is because the raw speed of the processor is only one factor in determining the overall speed of a computer system.

AMD said it had immediately begun shipping its chips to its two lead partners, computer manufacturers Compaq and Gateway.

"Achieving production of the gigahertz processor is the chip industry's equivalent of breaking the sound barrier," said AMD's Steve Lapinski.

Intel's own time

Intel, which supplies chips for 90% of the world's computers, is expected to make its own announcement on Wednesday according to analysts.

But an Intel spokesman declined to be more specific about when the company would introduce a 1GHz Pentium III chip.

"We are going to continue by our own schedule and that is shortly," said Michael Sullivan of Intel. "We demonstrated our Pentium III 1GHz processor in February with systems from Dell, Hewlett-Packard and IBM. We have already begun shipping to our customers and will make the official introduction shortly."

The need for speed

Most users will not immediately need the extreme speed of the 1GHz chips, said Linley Gwennap, principal analyst of The Linley Group in California: "From a consumer standpoint, it's more of a mirage than a product.

"There are some professional editing systems or some kinds of big financial calculations, but 99% of consumers and 90% of business people are not going to require that kind of performance," he said.

But analyst Charles Galvin at CS First Boston said: "We definitely believe that consumers will need (faster processing speeds), but the question is when."

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