Vendors Scurry to Offer PCs for New Intel Chip


Intel Corp., racing to protect its near-monopoly for the “brains” inside personal computers, introduced a computer-on-a-chip Monday that’s destined to become the standard for personal computers in the office.

The new 486SX chip is a slimmed-down version of the existing 486 and will sell for about half the price. Just as important, the new chip will sell for less than the high-end version of the popular Intel 386, which recently began facing competition in the form of a “clone” from Advanced Micro Devices.

Major personal computer vendors, led by International Business Machines, are scurrying to introduce new PCs that use the 486SX. Advanced Logic Research was first out of the blocks with a 486SX PC announcement Monday, and IBM and AST Research are expected to introduce PC product lines today that include 486SX machines.

Intel also demonstrated a high-speed version of the 486 on Monday and said that product will be ready for market this summer. This souped-up 486 is part of Intel’s response to Sun Microsystems and Mips Computer Systems, both of which are pushing high-performance chips based on a design technique called reduced instruction set computing.


By offering higher performance at lower cost, the 486SX is expected to take much of the business that once went to the 386 chip, a 5-year-old product that has brought billions of dollars in revenue and enormous profits to Intel. It will also put pressure on AMD, which began shipping its 386 clone in the first quarter after a long development effort and an even longer legal battle--not yet entirely over--with Intel.

David House, head of Intel’s microcomputer components group, said the company will still ship more 386s than 486s this year, but the 486 should be the volume leader by next year. Asked why anyone would now buy a 386, he said: “You can get them today.”

IBM, in the midst of a concerted push to regain market share in personal computers and promote its own high-performance PC software operating system, is moving quickly to take advantage of the new chip with its product introduction today.