A row over the way microprocessors are benchmarked seemed certain today as Intel's CEO and President Andy Grove said Pentium II chips needed to be measured in several different ways.
Delivering his keynote speech to delegates at Compaq's Innovate 97 conference, Grove outlined his company's strategy over the next few years and his ideas of what constituted the "megatrends" in the industry. He also demonstrated the Net PC with remote management and installation from the server.
On the Pentium II, formerly codenamed Klamath, Grove confirmed that it will be released "within a few weeks".
But, he said: "Microprocessor performance now needs three different vectors to describe performance; integer, floating point and multimedia." The reasons, for that, he said, was that the Dual Independent Bus (DIB) architecture allowed for throughput to be increased from both CPU and floating point unit (FPU), while cache performance was also better.
That will anger rivals AMD and Cyrix, with the former claiming better overall performance for its K6 processor, released two weeks ago.
Grove said: "We're about to make a transition to new business desktop called the Visual Connected PC. That will mean Internet access will be built into desktops as well as better manageability and 100Mbit Ethernet abilities," he said.
"We were very proud when we delivered the current bus architecture," he said. "With today's microprocessor speeds PCI is becoming a limitation. It is no longer enough to deliver a faster CPU, we must deal with and cross the bandwidth valley of death." The need for more bandwidth is the first megatrend, he said.
"The step to the Pentium II and DIB architecture is as large a step from the 486 to the Pentium," he said. "It's a very major discontinuity."
He said that Intel will run its Merced processor and its Pentium Pro family, which includes the Pentium II, in parallel for the foreseeable future.
Intel, he said, was continuing to spend large sums of money on capital outlay. "$4.5 billion is budgeted for 1997," he said. That meant expansion at its existing fabrication plants and investment in new plants. "We've outgrown our site in Penang. We're building a test facility in China and we're extending in Manila. There will be a new design facility in Seattle and our Fort Worth project will be a very major fab plant," he said.
Grove also claimed that the Intel architecture was a better performer for Java than non-Intel platforms. He demonstrated a 233MHz Pentium II system running against a Sun Microstation using a 100MHz Sparc chip. Java was "a megatrend", he said.
Java was emerging as a tool for unlocking legacy data, he said. "Intel's role is to make it run faster on our architecture." While he admitted that the demonstration was not comparing like with like, he said that a linear interpretation of Caffeine benchmarks meant not only that an Intel machine was faster than a Sun but it also ran the mass of x86 applications.
The last megatrend, said Grove, was the emergence of the Internet. He said: "In future, commerce will be conducted screen-to-screen. We won't jump to this in one move but screen-to-screen technology is coming very rapidly."
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