Intel chip to speed multimedia apps

Intel Corp. this week rolls out its next-generation MMX microprocessor which is designed to speed up multimedia applications on Pentium- and Pentium Pro-based computers. MMX hardware and applications vendors are already poised to infuse the federal market with the new technology.

MMX improves the ability of the computer chips to process audio video and image information by adding 57 new "instructions" that tell the chips how to execute the complex operations required by media-rich software - a value add that may boost performance by 60 percent or more in a whole class of applications now widely used in the federal market including video-conferencing computer-based training and multimedia authoring tools.

Anthony Battista fielding team leader at the Army's Small Computer Program office Fort Monmouth N.J. said Army users will welcome MMX technology because multimedia applications have emerged as hot products during the last year or so. "We find that with our notebooks and PCs more and more folks are ordering CD-ROM as part of the bundle and more are also ordering sound capabilities " Battista said.

The Army did not even specify such technology when it launched its PC-1 and Portable-1 procurements two years ago Battista said. But once the Army gets its protested PC-2 and Portable-2 contracts in place "I am sure this is something we will sit down with those vendors to discuss."

The Justice Department will be taking a look at MMX along with other emerging factors such as 56 kilobit/sec modems and universal serial bus technology. "They have to interest us because they are going to catch on " said Andrew Boots director for systems technology at DOJ which is planning to purchase 4 000 to 5 000 PCs during the next three to four months. Boots said what interests him about MMX is the "ability of the chip to handle video streams." He added that this ability could come into play with local-area network-based video applications such as training.

Intel is introducing this technology first to its Pentium chips and on Wednesday will announce availability of 166 and 200 MHz chips for desktop machines and 150 and 166 MHz chips for portables. Late in the first half of 1997 Intel will add MMX to its Pentium Pro processors. The new Pentium chips will run applications 10 to 20 percent faster even without taking MMX into account and will provide an additional performance push of 60 percent or greater through the MMX technology an Intel spokesman said.

As for pricing the spokesman said system-level pricing in general will be "slightly higher" for models containing MMX technology. "But it will not be an incredibly high price delta " he added. Intel and system vendors will release more specifics on pricing this week.

Dell Computer Corp. Toshiba America Information Systems Inc. and Gateway 2000 Inc. are planning to deliver desktop and portable machines using MMX. Dell plans to install MMX-equipped chips "top to bottom" on its portable line said Ben Bentzin director of portable marketing at Dell. "MMX will accelerate bit-intense graphics multimedia streams and patterns like voice."

Toshiba meanwhile plans to announce 150 and 166 MHz notebooks equipped with MMX on Wednesday according to a source close to Toshiba.

Gateway 2000 a major PC player on the General Services Administration schedule is expected to soon ship desktops and portables with MMX technology. "The biggest applications for MMX in the federal government will be videoconferencing and training " said Bill Shea vice president of major account sales at Gateway 2000.

A number of major hardware suppliers including Digital Equipment Corp. and Micron Electronics Inc. are also expected to unveil MMX-based products following Intel's chip announcement.

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