With the release of a low-cost Pentium 4 chipset that lets PC makers build systems that tie the high-end chip to standard, low-cost SDRAM memory, Intel is now busy phasing out its popular Pentium III product line for desktop PCs. By the end of this year's holiday season, Pentium III desktop systems will be gone for good from store shelves; only corporate accounts will be able to purchase the systems for a limited time thereafter. Intel says it will continue to sell its low-end Celeron line, which is based on the Pentium III chip, for the short term.

Originally, manufacturers had to use the Pentium 4 with special RDRAM memory, which is slightly faster, but more expensive, than standard SDRAM. Now, with an SDRAM option, PC makers can offer Pentium 4 systems at a variety of price points, including systems at less than $800 with 1.5GHz processors. At the high end of the market, 2GHz monsters with massive amounts of RDRAM memory are the norm.

Major PC makers say they back the plan, and companies such as Dell will switch all their consumer desktop product lines to the Pentium 4 by the end of the year. Today, Dell sells two Pentium 4-based consumer desktops and one desktop based on the Celeron.