Intel Israel doesn’t have an all-out celebration every day but today is special. Its parent company, Intel has announced a new processor, developed in its entirety at Intel’s research and development center in Haifa, that within a few years, will be found in every PC-owning household.
Yesterday (Wednesday), Intel announced the new Pentium P-55 processor, the first microprocessor to incorporate Intel’s new technology for improved performance on media-rich applications. This combination of new PCs and software will enhance the user’s experience by enabling higher quality graphics, video and audio.
The development initiative and all planning was executed at Intel’s research and development center in Haifa. "This is the first time we can say, with certainty, that an original Israeli product, an independent development of Intel’s research and development center in Haifa, will be found in every household in the world where there is a personal computer," says Intel Israel president Dov Frohman with pride. "The staff at the Haifa research and development center showed exceptional development abilities and original thinking. This is an unprecedented historic achievement for Israeli planning and engineering."
The Price is Already Dropping
Pentium MMX processors for both desktop and mobile computers are available immediately. With the announcement, a large number of PC
manufacturers are now hurrying to introduce systems based on this processor, many bundled with a variety of software designed for Intel MMX technology.
New hardware and software logos, based on the veteran Intel Inside slogan, have been developed for use in advertising, marketing and promotional campaigns beginning this month.
The Pentium processor with MMX technology is offered at 166 and 200 MHz for desktop systems, which are initially focused on the consumer market segment. The 150 and 166 MHz processors for mobile computers are targeted at the business market segment. In 1,000-unit quantities, the 166-MHz and 200-MHz Pentium processors with MMX technology are priced at $407 and $550,
respectively. In 1,000-unit quantities, the 150-MHz and 166-MHz Pentium processors with MMX technology are priced at $443 and $550, respectively. The price of a full computer will be $2,500-3,000 or $1,000 more than the US price of a standard multimedia computer.
But, as is standard practice in the computer world, price is a temporary thing. Processor prices are expected to drop in a few months, in light of the expected release of the GX89 processor, made by Intel competitor Cyrix. Market estimates see processor price continuing to decline in the coming months.
Expectations of the MMX technology launch have already affected the market, contributing to a drop in high-quality computer prices over the holiday season.
According to estimates, computer prices are expected to stabilize at some $200 over the present average multimedia computer price, expressing themselves in a relative savings on existing hardware components.
An Israeli Idea
The new processor is based on the ideas and original developments of Intel’s Haifa research and development center. General manager David Perlmutter, who also serves as vice president of the Intel Semiconductor group, says the idea to integrate multimedia capabilities with the Pentium chip was born three years ago. It was then presented to the parent company, and reached president Andrew Grove’s desk, who examined and approved it, and gave the Israeli group the task of characterizing the processor and completing development.
The development team, headed by Uri Weizer, defined the operations expected from the Pentium with MMX technology, its place in the future market of 1997 and onwards, and outlined the initial electronic guidelines. The challenge of characterization is important to note, as the computer market, at that time, was very different from present state, therefore projections of both business and technology needed to be both bold and exact.
In light of their present success, the Haifa research and development center is now expanding activity, and hiring dozens of new engineers. Direct investment in development of the Pentium with MMX technology was $100 million, while Intel’s total investment in the project was some $200 million.
The new technology paves the way for full implementation of Microsoft’s Active X applications, which support hybrid capabilities, combining the advantages of high-performance local processing and media storage with the benefits of an Internet link.
Pentium processors with MMX technology are already being manufactured by Intel, in order to meet the expected high level of demand. Intel hopes that one-quarter of the personal computers sold this year, some 20 million units, will include the new processor. Within a few months, the company intends to present the Pentium Pro with MMX technology. In the meantime, the product, which is still in the experimental stages, goes by the temporary nickname of Kalamath.
A Super-strong Multimedia Engine
The new processors are built on Intel’s enhanced 0.35 micron CMOS process technology which allows it to deliver high performance with low power consumption. The Pentium processor with MMX technology includes 4.5 million transistors and has several architectural enhancements, in addition to the MMX instructions. These include doubling the on-chip cache size to 32KB and more efficient branch prediction, which provide increased performance of
10 to 20% on standard CPU benchmarks.
Intel’s media benchmark tested the Pentium processor with MMX technology and found it delivers more than 60% performance improvement when compared with an equivalent speed Pentium processor. This benchmark, which measures performance on media-rich applications, consists of audio, video, imaging and 3D geometry components.
The new processors powerful capabilities will enhance the standard personal computer’s capabilities for sound, video and multimedia without the need for additional cards.
Intel assisted multimedia and game designer in adapting their software to the new environment. Some received assistance during an 18 month period. Only six managed to complete their preparations in time for the announcement but an additional 100 manufacturers, not to mention software houses, are expected to release MMX versions during the next half year period. Among the companies who will release MMX computers: IBM, Compaq, HP, Dell, Gatway 2000, Toshiba and others.
Software Replaces Hardware
The software industry has already voted in favor of MMX. Developers were notified of the technology a year ago, leading to the development of new educational, reference, games, and communications applications. Some are available today and many more of which are expected to be announced throughout the year. Companies include Visual Home, developers of a 3-D interior design program, and Adobe Photo Deluxe.
Intel views the educational market as important for the Pentium MMX. The processors’ abilities turn PCs into multimedia machines, while saving on hardware. This allows software houses to design educational programs integrating high-quality, full-screen video, audio, special-effects, high-quality animation and more.
The Pentium with MMX technology is a godsend to the games market, turning PCs into amazing, arcade-quality games. Intranet users or multi-player Internet game users will like the 60% improved graphic upload time, reducing waiting time to a minimum.
For the business sector, the new processor enables efficient integration of such applications include video-conferencing over standard telephone lines,
software-based and MPEG standard video and 3D graphics, digital image editing and communications. Developments of this type are being carried out by Israeli software houses, in cooperation with the Haifa research and development center.
What is MMX Technology?
A Pentium with MMX technology can process up to 400 operations per second but, in contrast to standard chips, using a process called Single Instruction Multiple Data (SIMD), it enables one instruction to perform the same function on multiple pieces of data. It allows the chip to reduce compute-intensive loops common with video, audio, graphics and animation.
In order to cut down on multimedia processing time, the engineers at Intel’s research and development center in Haifa, added 57 new instructions specifically designed to manipulate and process video, audio and graphical data efficiently, a sort of short cut to the highly parallel, repetitive sequences often found in multimedia operations. Although the instructions are new, the MMX technology maintains complete compatibility with Intel processor-based PCs, existing operating systems and applications.