If 1999 was not a year to bring cheer to Intel, then in many ways 2000 saw things get worse for the chip giant.
The start of the year saw Intel carry on with the chip shortages which had dogged the manufacturer since the “Coppermine” Pentium III launch back in October of 1999. For the first time that many commentators could remember, Intel was having serious difficulty in executing on its main processor strategy and on its chipset strategy both at the same time. The unloved i820 was not being accepted by the market and the company was looking at not being able to provide a suitable replacement for the ageing i440BX chipset. There was though an answer to Intel’s chipset problems in the form of the VIA Apollo Pro133A, which was capable of providing the Pentium III with a mainstream chipset in place of the unpopular i820 and the low-end i810. The only problem for Intel was that it meant opening a door to its Number 1 chipset rival to ensure support for the Pentium III. The VIA Apollo Pro133A was to become as much of a blessing as a curse to Intel during 2000.
Intel did though have a chip launch in January in the shape of the Celeron 533. This was to be the last of the hugely popular “Mendocino” line of Celeron processors which had helped Intel to claim the lions share of the “value” PC market away from AMD.
February saw the shortages begin to bite for Intel as many suppliers started to see stocks of Pentium III processors dwindle to low levels. Smaller distributors also saw vastly reduced supplies of Pentium III processors which meant that they had to start sourcing chips from rival firm AMD. To make matters worse, Intel appeared to be performing an act of desperation and began to re-issue the defunct Pentium II 400 to suppliers to ease the chip shortage. Why Intel did not re-issue lower clock-speed members of its Pentium III range was never revealed, such as the 450 and 500 MHz parts. This would have lessened the impact of the shortages.
In many respects March was probably the most galling month of 2000 for Intel. The reason; Arch rival AMD managed to beat it in the race to release the first 1 GHz processor by a number of days. Intel responded by releasing the Pentium III at 1 GHz, but the chip was plagued by the same shortages that were affecting the rest of the range. Around this time, tier-one OEM Gateway started to release 1 GHz systems based upon the readily available AMD Athlon processor.
April saw Intel release the 866 and 933 MHz Pentium III processors to fill the gap between the 800 MHz and 1 GHz Pentium III chips. The shortages were still biting hard and it even supplies of the Celeron processor were becoming increasingly difficult to find in the UK.
Summer 2000 saw Intel release the third major revision of its highly successful range of Celeron processors. The 0.18 micron Celeron was essentially a Pentium III with only 128 KB of Level 2 cache enabled and was set to run on a 66 MHz Front Side Bus. Unlike the 0.25 micron “Mendocono” Celeron released in the summer of 1998, the “Coppermine 128" proved not to be a budget alternative to its larger Pentium branded sibling with performance restricted by the low Front Side Bus Speed and reduced cache. Whilst the new Celeron was greeted by a level of disappointment amongst the PC Hardware enthusiast community it did prove to be a large commercial success for Intel, especially when coupled to the budget i810e chipset. The 0.18 micron Celeron became one of Intel’s most readily available processors in the second half of 2000 and scaled from 533 MHz up to 766 MHz in a matter of months.
Summer 2000 also saw another success for Intel in the shape of the i815 and i815e chipset range. Originally intended as a budget alternative to the unloved i820
chipset, the i815 range ended up being a sucessor to the ageing BX chipset in that it combined impressive memory performance with modern features such as
AGP 4X and ATA-66/100 support. At last Intel had a chipset with which to try and reclaim market share lost to the VIA Apollo Pro133A.