Intel May Have Given Its Rivals A Break

EACH NEW GENERATION OF microprocessors from Intel Corp. usually doubles the speed with which personal computers can run programs. Not this time, though. Intel's own tests show that many existing Microsoft Windows programs will operate some 16% slower on the P6--the code name for Intel's next-generation microprocessor due out this fall--than on high-end Pentiums.

The reason: Intel tuned the P6 for programs written for such advanced operating systems as Unix and Microsoft Corp.'s Windows NT, which process 32 bits of data at a time. To save valuable space on the new chip, Intel left out transistors that would have speeded up older 16-bit programs. Even with the initial version of Microsoft's Windows 95, the P6 outruns a high-end Pentium by only 25%.

That could give rivals such as Advanced Micro Devices Inc. and Cyrix Corp. a window of opportunity, since their next-generation chips are designed to speed up 16-bit code as well as 32-bit code. But by 1997, when the P6 will be in high-volume production, 32-bit programs may dominate.

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