March 25, 1997 10:45 AM ET
By millennium's end, Intel commits to increasing computing power
By Robert Lemos

  SAN JOSE, CALIF.--Amid stunning graphics and earth-shaking Dolby surround sound, Intel Corp. declared today that it will be delivering 10 times the performance of today's mainstream computers to the desktop of users in the year 2000. Most of the gains will be focused on next-generation graphics applications, such as PC-TV, digital videodisk players and real-time three-dimensional rendering.

The commitment was repeatedly voiced throughout a day devoted to Intel's Visual Computing Initiative, a blueprint for the next-generation graphics platform.

The PC microprocessor market's majordomo said it aims to offer a unified architecture to the fullest spectrum of users, as opposed to today's market, where specialized Unix systems and Apple Computer Inc. do very well.

"We are offering workstation power and mainstream affordability on a single architecture," said Albert Yu, senior vice president of the microprocessor products group for Intel, based in Santa Clara, Calif.

Although the predicted performance gains surpass the trend known within computer circles as Moore's Law, which states that computing power doubles every 18 to 24 months, much of the increase is based on removing the bottlenecks within Intel's basic architecture, and not on microprocessor improvements.

The company listed five areas that will be revamped: speedier processors, like the Pentium II; better graphics acceleration hardware; a new dedicated high-bandwidth bus, called the advanced graphics port, that will deliver four times the bandwidth of the current PCI bus; faster dynamic RAM; and I/O standards capable of higher data rates. All of these factors will band together to create a much faster and more efficient architecture.

As in the past, the mass of the entertainment market will keep new technology gravitating toward it. Yet, while several companies targeted the PC-TV consumer market as the next graphics gold mine, Intel's bandwidth-liberating presentations focused on the high-end server market, suggesting its next step will be out into the wings rather than bringing the spotlight to the audience.

"Our goal is to bring the best visual computing technologies to the Intel architecture," said Intel Vice President and General Manager Pat Gelsinger, in a prepared statement announcing a partnership between Intel and Avid Technology Inc. Avid is a major supplier of software tools for editing and creating information and education content in the film industry.

The partnership was sealed with Intel's purchase of 6.75 percent of Avid, at a total price of $14.75 million. Avid will be aggressively expanding its support for the Intel platform with a commitment of more manpower to develop applications for the Intel platform than any other competing platform.

By no means will Intel slow its foray into the consumer living room.

"We are in a battle for users' attention," declared Craig Barret, Intel CEO and president, in the keynote speech.

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