Intel Hints at Chipset Plans

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Intel plans to launch its Grantsdale and Alderwood chipsets for Pentium 4 processors on June 21, according to several motherboard makers at the Computex 2004 exhibition in Taipei. But while the chipsets will soon be available to users, they may not become widely adopted by users until early next year.

While an Intel spokesperson declines to comment on when exactly the chipsets will hit the market, William Siu, vice president and general manager of Intel's desktop platforms group, confirms they will soon ship, saying, "Get your wallets ready."

Gearing up for the launch, Intel made public the official names for Grantsdale and Alderwood at Computex. There will be two versions of Grantsdale, the 915P and 915G, alongside one version of Alderwood, the 925X, according to the company.

For Intel, the 915 and 925 chipsets mark an important technology transition from AGP (Accelerated Graphics Port) to PCI (Peripheral Component Interconnect) Express for graphics cards. The chipsets also offer support for DDR2 memory and include support for RAID, Intel's High-Definition Audio technology, and a feature that can turn a desktop PC into an access point for an 802.11 wireless network. The 915G will add integrated graphics.

Moving Into the Mainstream

But users may be slow to warm to the transition to PCI Express, one motherboard maker says.

"We don't think PCI Express will take off this year," says George Tang, an account manager in the European sales department of Asustek Computer, one of the world's largest motherboard makers. "We think that in the first quarter of next year it will become mainstream."

In the meantime, Asustek expects to see all of its 915- and 925-based motherboards ship in relatively small volumes, with sales picking up early next year as prices come down for PCI-Express-based graphics board and DDR2 memory, Tang says.

With 915- and 925-based motherboards not expected by Asustek to become mainstream until early next year, an opportunity could open for Via Technologies, which plans to offer a Pentium 4 chipset, the PT890, that supports both AGP and PCI Express graphics cards. Motherboards based on the PT890 could appeal to users who may not want to buy a PCI Express graphics card, Tang says, adding it is too early to say for sure how the market will respond.

"We'll have to wait and see," Tang says.

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