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Intel Corp. launched its latest but controversial Pentium series microprocessor product Tuesday in Japan, as more than 30 system vendors including NEC Corp., Sony Corp. and Fujitsu Ltd. released Pentium III models the same day for the Japanese market.

Intel said that it began shipping its 450MHz Pentium III processors for 57,630 yen and the 500MHz version for 80,870 yen. It will began shipping 550MHz Pentium III processors in the second quarter.

Intel claims the Pentium III is much faster than its Pentium II predecessor in drawing 3-D graphics, processing audio and visual images, and in dealing with demanding applications such as voice recognition.

But the chip has also stirred a privacy flap because of its ability to broadcast a unique identification number to any user on the Internet who asks for it. The feature means users of computers based on an Intel chip can be tracked and identified wherever they surf the Internet.

Michael A. Aymar, vice president and director of Intel Corp.’s platform launch operation, told a Tokyo press conference that the more powerful processor is designed to offer “rich multimedia experiences” over the Internet, such as those involving real-time audio and video streaming.

Kunitake Ando, corporate senior vice president of Sony Corp., appeared at the press conference and demonstrated the new VAIO series desktop computer, which is equipped with a dedicated key for launching e-mail software and gives the user visual notification when new e-mail is received.

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