Hardware, software sellers pursue Intel MMX business

Hardware and software vendors are lining up behind Intel Corp. and its MMX multimedia technology announcing products that will arrive on federal contracts during the next few weeks.Intel two weeks ago announced its Pentium processor with MMX technology which aims to boost the performance of multimedia applications such as videoconferencing computer-based training and imaging.

Following the announcement a number of hardware vendors unveiled products running the new chip. Software vendors meanwhile revealed plans for products designed specifically to take advantage of MMX. Intel officials indicate that MMX processors will run software specifically developed for that technology at least 60 percent faster than previous chips.

More than a dozen hardware vendors have announced products incorporating MMX technology. While some suppliers are emphasizing the consumer appeal of faster multimedia others specifically are targeting business applications such as imaging.

Micron Electronics Inc. for example is offering digital cameras as an option for its newly announced Millennia MXE midrange desktop which features a 166 MHz chip with MMX technology. The system which ships with 32M of RAM and features an Iomega Corp. 100M Zip drive as a standard feature starts at $1 999. Micron will provide Eastman Kodak Co.'s DC20 DC25 and DC50 digital cameras as options.With the camera option and Zip drive the MMX platform becomes "an easy turnkey solution" for multimedia said Raymond Jones senior marketing manager at Micron.

In addition to the desktop unit Micron is shipping an MMX notebook called the TransPort XPE which includes a 12.1-inch active-matrix display and 8X CD-ROM for a price of $4 599.

Micron plans to add its MMX products to the General Services Administration schedule.

In another nod to business applications Toshiba America Information Systems Inc. is bundling videoconferencing gear with one of its two soon-to-ship MMX notebooks.

Toshiba's Tecra 740CDT features a 166 MHz processor a 13.3-inch active-matrix display and 10X CD-ROM. The product also includes a suite of videoconferencing gear that includes Toshiba's Noteworthy Business Video Phone and Intel's ProShare videoconferencing software. Toshiba has set open-market pricing for the product at $6 202 according to Jan O'HARA federal sales manager for the government region in Toshiba's Computer Systems Division.

Toshiba's Tecra 730XCDT meanwhile includes a 150 MHz chip a 12.1-inch display and 10X CD-ROM. The videoconferencing equipment will be available as an option. Pricing will not be available until later this month.

Both the Tecra 730XCDT and 740CDT are slated to ship by mid-February. O'HARA said both MMX notebooks will be added to the GSA schedule with the new schedule season which starts April 1.

Dell Computer Corp. meanwhile will ship MMX-equipped portables in the spring. Rocky Mountain federal marketing manager at Dell said he expects the company's federal contracts to be refreshed with MMX technology. Dell's contracts featuring portables include the Treasury Department Acquisition 2 through BTG Inc. the National Institutes of Health's Electronic Computer Store through Government Technology Services Inc. and NASA's Mass Buy IV. The products also will appear on the GSA schedule.

Dell also is outfitting its OptiPlex and Dimension desktop lines with MMX technology. The company's OptiPlex Gs and GXi models equipped with MMX will be sold in the federal market on the GSA schedule a Dell spokesman said. The models which will ship in 166 MHz and 200 MHz configurations are expected to hit the schedule this month.

Software vendors are looking to MMX for a performance boost in some cases designing products with MMX in mind. Appearance of MMX-enabled applications will lag behind hardware because while software vendors also had access to beta code developers generally wanted the final specifications to begin work in earnest vendors said.

Adobe Systems Inc. which sells Photoshop PhotoDeluxe and other image editing and multimedia authoring tools began tailoring its products for MMX months before those products shipped. Adobe engineers have seen a two- to fourfold increase in performance with Photoshop on MMX-based systems and that will only get better a company spokesman said. Adobe also has developed MMX-enabled versions of its After Effects PhotoDeluxe and Premiere.

"We actually shipped before the chip did so we were coding for a moving target " the spokesman said. "But we will continue to work on that and hopefully offer even more substantial improvement." Adobe's Photoshop is used widely in the federal market.

Vendors that have targeted computer-based training applications also are excited about MMX. Asymetrix Corp. is working to retool its applications to take advantage of MMX technology. Asymetrix markets ToolBook II a multimedia authoring product geared to develop distributed learning applications and 3D F/X a 3-D graphics tool. ToolBook II is available on the GSA schedule through AmeriData Federal Systems.Heavy Processing Applications to Benefit

MMX will have its biggest impact on applications that require processing large amounts of data at the same time said Mike Dierken technical leader for 3-D products at Asymetrix. For example video editing with "dissolves" - blending one image with another - can take a toll on performance because it requires working with every pixel from two different pictures to create a third. The MMX-based computers will handle that work faster than standard processors because they contain special instructions for mathematical and memory operations Dierken said.

PictureTel Corp. a leading supplier of videoconferencing technology to the government plans to build extensions to MMX to improve performance even further said Thomas Ruff director of personal systems sales for the Americas at PictureTel.

Although MMX will improve desktop videoconferencing performance still will fall short of true "business quality" on systems running slower than the 200 MHz Pentium Pro Ruff said which is not yet used widely. So PictureTel plans to capitalize on improvements that come with MMX but extend them further for even better video and audio and do it in a way that is transparent to the user he said. The new technology likely will be available sometime in the latter part of 1997 the company said.


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