Cyrix is developing two new powerful X86-compatible microprocessors in an attempt to compete with Intel's highly secretive Merced processor.
Last week Cyrix confirmed it has been working on the microprocessors for the last two years. It comes just a month after National Semiconductor announced it was acquiring Cyrix for $550 million (#350 million) in a stock deal.
Brendan Sherry, the Cyrix's general manager for Europe, said the high-end chip, dubbed the M3, is "a native X86 processor that will run at between 500MHz and 600 MHz".
The second processor is expected to be a stepping stone to the M3. Lynley Gwennap, editor-in-chief of the Micro-processor Report, said: "It will probably be a stop gap, a filler if you like, that sits between the (current) 6X86 product and the next or seventh generation (M3) chip. The seventh generation product will be very quick ... I think 500-600MHz is about right."
Asked when he thought the first of the two processors would appear, Gwennap said: "You'll probably start hearing about the stop gap in about a year."
Cyrix is expected to release further details of M3 at the Microprocessor Forum, in San Jose, California in October.
The chips will compete with Merced, a seventh generation processor Intel is jointly developing with Hewlett-Packard. Intel refuses to discuss Merced but the processor may not be X86-compatible.
Cyrix has been experiencing some success with its MediaGX low-end processor, which National Semiconductor cited as one of the key reasons for it buying the company. However, Sherry insists Cyrix will continue to develop high-end microprocessors.
"The MediaGX architecture has to have high-end core technologies being developed alongside it. It can't just stay as it is. The M3 is that core," he said.
But even if Cyrix is successful in bringing such a high-end product to market, it will not be able to use the Slot 1 architecture patented by Intel. According to industry sources, Cyrix and other chip and memory vendors are discussing an open slot architecture which would by-pass Intel's patent. An announcement on this could come as early as the second quarter of next year.
National Semiconductor's takeover of Cyrix couldn't have come at a better time for Cyrix. The former has access to hundreds of cross licensing agreements with Intel, as well as a serious bucket of cash that could boost Cyrix' pitiful marketing efforts. Coupled with National Semiconductor's interest in the MediaGX and the continuing R&D behind the M3, things are definitely looking up.
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