PC vendors jump on new Intel technology

The debut of Intel Corp.'s Celeron and two new Pentium II processors has spawned another round of product announcements by major PC vendors, with new desktop PCs, workstations and servers slated to begin shipping to federal customers by the end of the month.

Intel's strategy with the much anticipated announcement of the Celeron— a stripped-down Pentium II-class chip running at 266 MHz— is to push into the sub-$1,000 PC market, where inexpensive CPUs from rival chipmakers Advanced Micro Devices Inc. and Cyrix Corp. are already making an impact.

On the high end, the new Pentium II processors announced with the Celeron run at 350 MHz and 400 MHz and come integrated in a new Intel 440BX AGPset, which provides PC manufacturers with a single motherboard design that can be used with the entire family of Pentium II processors.

The chipset also supports a new P6 100 MHz system bus, an improvement on the 66 MHz system bus now on the market. The faster bus speed accelerates communications between the processor and other components and makes it possible to run multimedia applications such as movie-quality videos and realistic 3-D images. According to Intel, the Pentium II 350 MHz chip, in conjunction with the faster system bus, can increase the performance of PCs and workstations by more than 30 percent.

The products that have been refreshed with the new Intel processors include several that are top sellers in the government market.

Hewlett-Packard Co. announced that it will incorporate the Celeron in its Vectra line of PCs, its top seller in both the federal government and overall, said Alan Lawrence, manager of strategic programs in HP's federal group.

The Celeron also will figure in HP's Brio PCs aimed at small and medium-size businesses. The new Vectra and Brio models will be available through government resellers by the end of the month, with prices starting at less than $1,000.

"In the Vectra line, the Celeron chip is going to replace our current Pentium offering," Lawrence said. "It's a way of bringing [the Vectras] into the Pentium II marketplace but still at the sub-$1,000 price." HP also said it will integrate the Pentium II 350 MHz and 400 MHz chips into its family of HP Kayak PC workstations.

Another top seller in the government market, Compaq Computer Corp.'s Deskpro series, has been dramatically redesigned and will incorporate the new Intel products, the company said.

Compaq will put the 350 MHz and 400 MHz Pentium II chips into its new Deskpro EP Series, which ship this month and and start at $899, and the DeskPro EN Series, which ship in May and start at $1,349. "Government will buy a pretty features-rich product," said Gary Newgaard, federal sales director for Compaq. "They leap to speed every time."

Newgaard said it would be difficult to predict how well the new products will be received, but he noted that last year when Intel was pushing Pentium processors with MMX technology, government buyers blew past them and went straight for the Pentium II machines.

Compaq's Deskpro EN Series, aimed at enterprise customers, will be available as a traditional desktop PC, a minitower and a small form-factor desktop, the company said. The Deskpro EP Series, designed for small businesses, will feature a single-chassis tower design. Compaq also plans to use the 350 MHz and 400 MHz Pentium II processors in its server and workstation product lines.

NEC Computer Systems Division said it will incorporate the 350 MHz and 400 MHz Pentium II processors into its PowerMate line of desktop PCs. The new configurations will ship in June, and pricing will range from $2,400 to $4,000, NEC spokes-man Mike Wong said.

NEC also said that it will incorporate the Celeron chip into its PowerMate line of managed PCs and Net PCs, which will be available in the third quarter. On the server side, NEC announced the Express5800 LS2400 dual or single processor server capable of running either a 350 MHz or a 400 MHz Pentium II.

The new products give federal agencies a crack at future technology now, which should mean the equipment will not go obsolete as quickly as other technology has, Wong said.

Dell Computer Corp. said it already has begun shipping servers, workstations and desktop PCs with the new Intel processors, saying it amounted to a "technological evolution of all our products." New products include the Dell Precision Workstation 410, the Dell Dimension XPS R350 and R400 desktop PC, the Dell OptiPlex GX1 desktop computer, and a completely redesigned PowerEdge 2300 server.

The revamped server, starting at $3,166, is designed to provide a combination of the latest industry-standard computing technologies and even sports a new color, Dell said. Dell's products will be available on the GSA schedule within the few next weeks, the company said.


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