After rushing to catch up to rival Advanced Micro Designs (AMD) last week in the race to 1 GHz, Intel Corporation is now filling in the gaps in its Pentium III product line by introducing 850 and 866 MHz microprocessors. The new chips, which are designed for mainstream desktop systems, are slightly faster than Intel's previous high-end desktop chip, the 800 MHz Pentium III. But like most of Intel's high-end designs, supplies are expected to be limited for the short-term.

"The Intel Pentium III processor at 866 and 850 MHz enables powerful personal computers for running rich software and media, both in the home and in business," said Pat Gelsinger, the vice president and general manager of Intel's Desktop Products Group. The chips will cost approximately $775 and $765 respectively.

Current Pentium III processors run use the so-called "Coppermine" design, which is basically just an improvement of the basic Celeron packaging with more on-board L2 cache and new multimedia extensions that are exclusive to the PIII. Because the Coppermine chips rely on a manufacturing process that is more complicated than the previous generation of chips, Intel's yields are lower and thus supplies are limited. Analysts have speculated that Intel rushed the introduction of the Coppermine chips to compete more evenly with AMD, which released its record-breaking Athlon CPU last fall. Since then, Intel has been playing catch-up with AMD, offering faster chips that are often hard to find.

This fall, Intel will release its next-generation Pentium III, the "Willamette." Unlike previous PIIIs, the Willamette processors will feature an all-new design, though they will retain compatibility with the other 32-bit Pentium-class chips the company has been producing for years. Willamette will debut in the 1 GHz-1.5 GHz speed range, and will require a 200 MHz system bus, compared to 100 and 133 MHz for today's PIII systems