Another day, another change in Intel's plans for its low-end Celeron chip, the microprocessor the company is targeting at "basic computers." Perhaps its most boring product release ever, Intel's Celeron is basically a stripped-down Pentium II designed to replace the Pentium MMX line of CPUs. On Wednesday, Intel made the unexpected move of announcing that future Celerons may use Pentium motherboards (with the so-called "Socket 7" connection) rather than Pentium II motherboards (that use the "Slot 1" connector) in an effort to save money and keep the price of Celeron systems even lower than previous expected. The move is a complete reversal of previous Intel policy.
Though future Celerons will support the older Socket 7 technology, the next-generation Celeron, code-named "Mendecino," will arrive later this year in Slot 1 packaging. Mendecino Celerons will feature 128K L2 cache (the current Celerons have no L2 cache). Socket 7 versions of Mendecino will arrive in early 1999 at speeds of 300 and 333 MHz. Intel spokespeople agree the move is confusing.
"People will get confused," they concede. "They assumed that sockets have more limitations than slots. The socket means nothing: It's just a piece of plastic. It's the bus that is important, and this processor will use our P6 (Pentium II/Pentium Pro) bus. All we're doing is offering two options, in the same way that we offer different packaging options for the mobile P6. The bottom line is, we're trying to continue to offer ways to lower the total cost of the basic PC platform."
Intel maintains that performance for the Socket 7- and Slot 1-based Celerons will be identical. However, Socket 7-based Celeron systems will be cheaper