Santa Clara, CA, U.S.-based Intel Corp., the world's largest chip maker, has launched a much-anticipated new chip designed to sharply improve and expand the power of personal computers.
The chip, called Grantsdale, will work in tandem with Intel's Pentium 4 processors to give PCs more powerful sound and graphics, a speedier link for peripherals and memory, and an ability to run a wireless data network.
Having those features built into the core components of a computer could be essential to Intel's strategy as it tries to turn the PC into the heart of home entertainment without the need for expensive add-on cards.
"This is the most ambitious make-over of the PC platform in the last 12 years," said William Siu, Intel's general manager for desktop computer chips. The chips will begin to appear in PCs starting next week.
In concert with software maker Microsoft Corp. (Seattle, WA, U.S.) and PC makers including Gateway Corp. (Poway, CA, U.S.), Intel has pushed the development of "entertainment" or "media center" computers that cost about U.S. $700 and that can record television shows and store music and photographs.
At a media event in San Francisco, CA, U.S., Intel demonstrated a PC with the Grantsdale chip showing simultaneous high-definition video streams and surround-sound audio. Those features previously would require add-ons that add hundreds of dollars to the cost of a PC, Intel said.
"The features are much richer on the entry-level PCs" with Grantsdale, Mr. Siu said.
In May, Intel said that it plans to sell Grantsdale chips for $30 or $40, no more than the prior generation of chip sets. But the extra features offered could steer shoppers away from PCs built with chips from rival Advanced Micro Devices Inc.
Chip sets, which work as gatekeepers for data coming into and out of the core of a PC, rarely get much attention from the public. In the case of Grantsdale, analysts say the chip set has an unusually broad impact not only on computer users, but also on makers of computer components.
Graphics chip makers, for instance, have already shifted strategy to conform their products to a faster data conduit known as PCI Express, which will get its first broad industry support in Grantsdale.
Grantsdale also reportedly enables PCs to be built with a new type of computer memory called DDR 2, the second generation of double-data rate memory.
AMD, unlike Intel, relies entirely on partners to build chip sets that support its processors. Jeff Lowe, an AMD marketing manager, said it leaves graphics processing to companies that focus almost exclusively on such chips, including Nvidia Corp.
PCs built with the latest AMD products could top Intel's products, Lowe said, while offering additional features like hardware-based virus protection and 64-bit computing, which allows PCs to crunch larger chunks of data.
Mr. Lowe said AMD plans to support PCI Express before the end of the year. DDR 2 memory, he said, does not now provide enough benefits for consumers to warrant a switch, and would be supported by AMD perhaps late next year. (Reuters)
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