Intel Semiconductor will bring its message of a Connected PC strategy to Asia next week when it unveils prototype NetPCs for the Asian business computing market, and launches the Pentium II computer chip in Hong Kong. Intel chief operating officer Craig Barrett also will oversee the second annual Intel Technology Forum in Taipei next week. The forum is designed to offer leading Taiwanese original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) a preview to upcoming Intel technology under non-disclosure. Mr Barrett has been chosen to take over as Intel president from Andy Grove at the semiconductor giant's annual meeting on May 21. Mr Grove, who will remain as chief executive, hosted similar technology briefings in Hong Kong in 1994 and again last year, when he focused on the role of the PC as the information appliance of the 1990s. Intel's Hong Kong event next week will serve as the worldwide launch of the Pentium II. Pentium II, which is the Pentium Pro processor with multimedia extension (MMX) instruction sets, follows the introduction of the Pentium with MMX microprocessor earlier this year. The chip, which has a different memory cache architecture, was designed to cope better with 16-bit software than Pentium Pro, which is optimised for 32-bit applications and operating systems. There have been articles in the electronic trade press referring to the Pentium II's supposedly slower performance against the Pentium Pro in benchmark tests, but no OEMs have openly criticised the new Intel chip. Industry sources said workstations and desktop PCs built with Pentium II chips would be available almost immediately after the microprocessor became available in early May. Pentium Pro microprocessors were included only in PC servers after the initial release because of a supply shortage and high prices. The Pentium II launch is timely for Intel, following the spot price falls imposed by competition from Advanced Micro Devices (AMD), which released the K6 microprocessor this month. Salomon Brothers semiconductor analysts said the K6 offered performance slightly better than a Pentium Pro, but cost at least 30 per cent less than Intel's Pentium with MMX. 'We expect that AMD's aggressive pricing may lure spot-market buyers who may not be receiving full allocations from Intel to meet their processor needs,' Salomon Brothers said. NetPCs are the managed Windows-based personal computers designed as non-expandable boxes for corporate computer networks. The Desktop Management Interface (DMI) underpins the remote management capabilities of the NetPC. It is supported by PC market technology leaders such as Compaq, Hewlett-Packard and Dell Computer. The NetPC was developed to bring the cost of computing down - especially the cost of managing computer networks. Compaq and HP were the first companies to preview client and server software to rein in control of PCs using DMI, although fully certified NetPCs for the commercial market were not expected to be released until September. Meanwhile, IBM last week announced a new line of Intel-based personal computers also focusing on remote management. The PC 300 Series is a classic Pentium or Pentium with MMX-based series which boasts DMI compliance and a special IBM power management feature known as Wake-on-LAN. The formal NetPC system specifications, unveiled six weeks ago, can be viewed as a union of the Microsoft strategy for Zero Administration Windows and Intel's Wired for Management initiative. Its introduction could be viewed as a reaction to the Java-based push from platform-independent NC (Network Computer) camp. Intel, soon to launch its Klamath or Pentium II microprocessor, the sixth generation of x86-class processors but with an added multimedia instruction set, says that competition from NC or Java is non-existent. This is technically true because so little software has been deployed over Java-based networks, whereas tens of millions of desktop computers run Windows or DOS-based applications, many of them on corporate networks.