SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) _ Intel Corp. has named its fast microprocessor chip for powerful business machines ``Itanium'' as the giant computer chip maker moves into the fast-growing Internet networking business.

The 64-bit chip formerly had been named Merced, and is designed to run workstations _ machines with the ability to create sophisticated digital products such as movie special effects _ and servers, which are the traffic cops and information storers of the Internet.

Santa Clara-based Intel said Monday the first samples of the chips had been delivered to its customers, with full-scale shipping scheduled for mid-2000.

The world's largest maker of microprocessors is moving to break into the Internet networking business as sales of its core chips for desktop PCs slows and competition keeps profit margins down.

Intel is set to begin shipping its faster 700 megahertz Pentium III chip this month, but rival Advanced Micro Devices announced Monday it also has begun shipping a 700 megahertz version of its competing Athlon chip.