SAN FRANCISCO — Intel Corp., determined to maintain its dominance of the personal computer chip market, Wednesday unveiled the super-fast successor to its popular Pentium processor, the Pentium Pro.
Whereas the existing Pentium chips are used widely in home computers, the newest chip family is targeted at professional users of powerful workstation computers in engineering, animation, molecular design and financial services.
In presenting the Pentium Pro, Intel Chairman Andrew Grove told a standing-room-only crowd that for the time being, the newest chips will remain too expensive for the average consumer.
"There's no law preventing this from being bought for home use. But this is oriented toward a market segment that does not include individual, non-professional users," he said.
The product announcement came with a glitch. Compaq Computer Corp., the largest personal computer maker in the world, announced that it is delaying the availability of its new Pentium Pro-based PCs until the first quarter of next year because of problems in connecting the systems on a network.
Both companies said they are working on a solution. "We don't have any problems with the Pentium Pro or the chipsets," Grove said. He described the flaw as a "system-level problem with the I/O," that is, input-output. "We're working with our partners, Compaq in particular," he said.
With the Pentium Pro, Intel is initially taking aim at vendors of advanced workstations and "servers," namely Sun Microsystems Inc., Hewlett-Packard Co. and Silicon Graphics Inc. Servers are computers that manage and control the flow of data among computers linked on a network.
Executives of Santa Clara, Calif.-based Intel, whose chips are used in at least 80% of PCs worldwide, said the Pentium Pro can handle up to 200 million instructions per second. That's 200 megahertz in technospeak.
The speediest model will cost $1,325. It will not be widely available until the second quarter of 1996. Slower versions will be readily available in the first quarter, with some being rolled out in computer systems immediately. Those are the 150-MHz chip, which starts at $974, and the 180-MHz version, which starts at $1,075.
In synch with Intel's Pentium Pro announcement, several major computer makers said they will roll out new Pentium Pro-based computers, starting at about $4,000 each. That compares to consumer PCs such as a 75-MHz Pentium-based model that sells for as little as $1,400, including a monitor.
Workstations, on the other hand, start at about $10,000.
Industry analysts said the Pentium Pro clearly threatens to steal customers, and sales, from workstation makers.
"In one leap Intel has jumped past Sun and SGI [Silicon Graphics], for example," said Dan Hutcheson, president of VLSI Research.