With the recent problems Intel has been having with its high-end chips, here's to hoping that the company's October 30 launch of the Pentium 4 is more treat than trick. According to sources close to the company, Intel will launch its Pentium 4 microprocessor just before Halloween, at speeds of 1.4 and 1.5 GHz. The Pentium 4, which features Intel's first new processor architecture since the Pentium Pro debuted in 1996, will serve as the company's high-end 32-bit offering while the company transitions to the 64-bit Itanium. But Intel has had problems making the previous-generation Pentium III scale past 1 GHz, causing analysts to wonder whether the company is grabbing too much speed too fast.

But Intel says that the Pentium 4 will be its highest-performing processor for PCs, since the Itanium is designed solely for servers and very high-end workstations. And the good news for Intel is that the Pentium 4 once again opens up the headroom for expansion, giving it a decided advantage over the Pentium III, which has appeared to top out. Because the Pentium 4 is a new design, its fastest speeds are still years away. The company recently decided to offer lower-end versions of the Pentium 4 as well, opening up the chip to the low-end of the market much more quickly than was previously thought. Pentium 4 systems based on today's low-cost PC chipsets are now expected to debut sometime in early 2001.

Responding to criticism that it has been unable to supply users with a credible amount of its high-end parts, Intel says that it will ship "hundreds of thousands" of Pentium 4 chips this year. The company has had trouble meeting demand for its faster Pentium IIIs since the "Coppermine" version of that chip debuted last fall