Pentium III Targets the Internet

Intel's newest microprocessor, Pentium III, will be making its debut in new PCs on February 28. The new processor is being marketed as a way of making the Internet more congenial and E-commerce more enticing. In fact, much of the $300 million in Intel's marketing efforts seem to have been targeted directly at the Internet.

Tauted as being 'optimized' for the Internet, Pentium III's advertising is promising full-screen, thirty frames-a-second display with the same fluid, sharp presentation of a standard motion picture. Pentium III's 3-D imagery is expected to cause Web pages to spring to life as the new technology produces more realistic and lifelike images. Additionally, Pentium III is promoted as being capable of displaying crisp, smooth, uninterrupted streaming audio and video files.

Observers in the computer industry say the changes Intel made to the microprocessor are not major. Since Intel didn't create a new architecture but instead added features to the Pentium II processor, "We were surprised when they went ahead and called this 'Pentium III' instead of some variation on Pentium II," remarked Peter Glaskowsky of Micro Design Resources, Inc. Even though the new microprocessor is basically a Pentium II core, it does sport new security features and seventy all new multimedia instructions.

Intel is being criticized on the very market it is seriously courting: the Internet. At issue is the 'personal serial number' which is seen as a threat to Internet user's privacy. The chip ID feature included in Pentium III could allow employers to not only monitor which Web sites employees visit, but any services which may have been purchased. Intel's Mike Aymar, vice president and director of Intel's platform launch group, explained, "Our belief is that the [processor's personal serial number] is a valuable feature. We didn't put it in there just to take it out." Aymar further stated businesses could find many uses for the serial number which can be used in conjunction with various software applications. A business could, for example, track their computer resources by using the internal identification numbers with business management software.

Pentium III isn't bigger, it's more efficient. To state it simply, Intel now employs mathematical formulas which describe how images and sounds are to be presented. This means there are no files to download, resulting in improved communication across an unchanged amount of bandwidth. R. Victor Varney, Intel's director of developer relations and engineering, explains it like this, "Used to be richer meant fatter. With the technology we have now, richer means less bandwidth, better experience. You're basically trading MIPs (a PC's computing power or 'machine in place') for baud." Varney added, "What you're seeing now is really a platform that is pretty much bottleneck free."

"The fact of the matter is the bottleneck is still the connection [to the Internet]," reported Michael Feibus, semiconductor analyst of Mercury Research in Phoenix, Arizona. "Until you fix that, no amount of hardware will solve that."