New Intel Celerons Could Impact Purchasing Preparations for Windows 2000

The Intel chips provide expanded choices for enterprise desktop upgrades.

The Intel chips provide expanded choices for enterprise desktop upgrades

The time between the release of Microsoft Windows NT Workstation 4.0 and the expected release of Windows 2000 Professional witnessed major advancements in PC processing capabilities. When NT 4.0 was released in August 1996, most corporate-level desktops running the workstation used Intel Pentium 100s with 16 MB of RAM, at best.

At Comdex '98 this past November in Las Vegas, Microsoft Corp. announced a vendor program to begin shipping Windows 2000-ready PCs. The desktops, now available from big-name vendors, come with at least 300 MHz Pentium-class processors with 128 KB of Level 2 cache and 64 MB of RAM. They also come with NT Workstation 4.0 and Service Pack 3 installed, as well as preparation pieces like European currency capabilities and bug fixes for Y2K.

Now, cheaper than the Pentium-class chips, a 400-MHz Celeron chip was released by Intel earlier this month. It could become the chip of choice in the enterprise. The Celeron's performance is not far behind Pentium II chips, and it, too, features 128 KB of integrated Level 2 cache.

Most large vendors, such as Compaq Computer Corp., Dell Computer Corp. and Hewlett-Packard Co., offer systems based on the 400-MHz Celeron chip for about $1,100. Specifications vary, but most come with 64 MB of RAM and anywhere from 4 GB to 8 GB of disk space. Intel packages the chip for shipment in 1,000-unit quantities at $158 a piece.

Procrastinating IS managers who have yet to update their corporate PCs may wind up being rewarded in the end. Craig Beilinson, Microsoft Windows product manager, says companies should stop waiting and start updating.

Beilinson says he realizes the frustration IS managers have with updating desktops just to interoperate with new software, but he explains that's why Microsoft came out with the Windows 2000 ready plan. "We're working as hard as possible to make the code as performance-friendly as possible. The reality is that [Windows 2000-ready desktops] are now mainstream PCs. With a corporate account, these things are really cheap." Beilinson estimates that one-third of enterprise desktops are recycled every year. If it does take until the end of the year for Windows 2000 to be released, then that means two-thirds of the entire company could be ready to adopt Windows 2000 soon after its new release.

Seth Walker, a spokesman for Intel, says if the enterprise needs high performance, then IS managers will be better off with either Pentium II chips or the new Pentium III chips to be released later this year. Walker acknowledges that Celerons are great high-speed performers, but he explains they were designed for home use and do not perform as well in a networked environment. "Typically most of the high performance tasks in the business environment, like running security and encryption, is what we call constant computing. [The chip] is doing everything in the background while you're working. You need high performance PCs to do that," Walker says.

"The difference between a 400-MHz Celeron and 400-MHz Pentium II is negligible," says Rob Enderle, analyst with the Giga Information Group ( Enderle agrees there are back-end processes going on -- such as disk optimization and virus scanning -- and that a more powerful processor can handle this more efficiently, but he maintains the best value is still a Celeron. Enderle adds, however, that the new Pentium III chips to be released later this year, with speeds of 450 MHz and 500 MHz, moving up to 600 MHz, will give any enterprise environment a boost. But when the choice comes down to price, he concludes, the Celeron fits in perfectly.