Now that this week's introduction of the Celeron and Pentium II 350 and 400 is complete, Intel is moving on to the next generation Pentium II microprocessors, the so-called "Slot 2" Pentium II chips. The current generation of Pentium II microprocessors use a "Slot 1" design that houses the CPU in a black plastic cartridge that connects to the motherboard via two rails. The Pentium II 350 and 400 released this week employ the Slot 1 design, which limits the number of processors to two, and limits the speed of the L2 cache to half that of the processor.

The Slot 2 design, however, will offer several enhancements to the existing Pentium II. First of all, Slot 2 Pentium II systems support up to four processors. Because the Slot 2 will support up to 2 MB of L2 cache (current systems are limited to 512KB), the cartridge is almost twice the size of the Slot 1, necessitating some serious case and motherboard design changes. While it's only a little wider, it's more than twice as tall as the Slot 1 design.

For several reasons, Intel will attempt to sell Slot 2 systems as server solutions only, and will price them at a premium. The first Slot 2 processors--which are expected to be 350 and 400 MHz versions--are due later this year. The Slot 1 design, meanwhile, will be updated once or twice more, with a 450 MHz version in July, and perhaps a 500 MHz version by the end of the year. After that, it's all Slot 2, and despite Intel's hopes, the Slot 2 will likely make it downmarket to the desktop sooner rather than later