Intel is working on a "PC on a chip" device, codenamed Timna, which is expected to ship at the end of next year.
Based on a Pentium II processor core, the chip will feature 128Kb of level two cache, a graphics controller - believed to be based on S3 technology - and, controversially, a Direct Rambus memory controller.
Some motherboard designers are having problems implementing Direct Rambus technology for current PIII systems and support is growing for rival memory interface standard PC133 (see box).
An Intel spokesman refused to comment on Timna but said: "The 810 chipset was released recently and so a lot of people are speculating about our plans for integration. We are considering different options and we are looking intelligently at integration."
An integrated chip such as this could dramatically reduce the cost of building a PC as it eliminates the requirement for a lot of additional components. Intel rival Cyrix announced plans to build a PC on a chip last year.
However, building such a chip could prove problematic for Intel. To integrate so many components would require the chip to be very large.
First, most silicon wafers are roughly the same size regardless of which chip they are manufactured for, but larger processors require more silicon - so the manufacturer gets fewer chips per wafer. Second, because there are so many more components on the silicon, there is a greater chance that an imperfection on the wafer could affect a critical part of the processor.
This means that yields suffer and production costs rise - highly undesirable for a processor which is intended for use in low cost devices.
DIRECT RAMBUS VERSUS PC133
Direct Rambus is a new type of memory interface technology developed by Rambus and licensed by Intel, which plans to release compatible products in the third quarter of this year.
Intel believes that the current memory interface technology (PC100 and its successor PC133) has a limited future and that Direct Rambus is the best option for next generation systems.
An Intel spokesman said: "The current architecture is running out of gas. Intel believes Direct Rambus has a three to four year horizon which gives us plenty of headroom for architectural advances. Some people still aren't up to speed with their research, which is why they're still pushing PC133."
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