AMD's early Xmas gift: 750MHz Athlon

The chip maker will unveil an Athlon microprocessor that runs at a speed of 750MHz -- topping rival Intel's Pentium III.

AMD, with a new 750MHz version of the Athlon chip, on Monday began offering PC buyers the highest clockspeed PC processor available.

PCs with the new chip will deliver plenty of performance for high-end computing and taxing applications, such as gaming, according to the company.

AMD executives boasted earlier that the company had moved up the launch date for the Athlon chip from the first quarter of 2000 to the end of the fourth quarter of 1999. Apparently, they weren't kidding.

Analysts speculated Monday that AMD (NYSE:AMD) may be attempting to capitalize on the current market situation, where there is high demand for the top clockspeed chips, but limited supply. Supply, for example, of rival Intel Corp.'s (Nasdaq:INTC) highest clockspeed Pentium III chips, available in 700MHz and 733MHz speed, is limited, industry sources say. AMD may be able to capitalize on this situation.

Intel, for the record, says it is meeting all of its commitments to deliver high-end chips, but may not be able to meet additional demand.

Plenty of support
AMD's new Athlon is its first production 0.18 micron PC processor. The chip is based on a new manufacturing process which, when compared to other Athlons built on 0.25 micron manufacturing, shrinks the internals of the chip, allowing for increased clockspeed performance and reduced power consumption.

AMD has a number of PC makers lined up to support the new chip. They include Compaq Computer Corp. (NYSE:CPQ), IBM Corp. (NYSE:IBM), Cybermax and "others," the company said. The "others" may include Gateway Inc. (NYSE:GTW).

A number of sources confirmed that Gateway plans to introduce in the near future a consumer system based on the Athlon chip. E-mails sent from to inquiring customers last week said, "We will be offering the 'Athlon' on December 29th."

Compaq will offer the new chip as part of its "Built for You" program, which allows customers to purchase custom-configured Presario PCs directly from the Houston company.

IBM pledged to support the new chip in its Aptiva desktop series as well.

CyberMax will also offer the new chip in one of its desktop models.

Other initiatives
AMD's Athlon chip, introduced last August, is supported by a 200MHz system bus. The newest version of the chip continues to be produced at the company's Fab 25 in Austin, Texas. As AMD brings online its Fab 30, located in Dresden, Germany, the company expects to deliver even higher performing versions of the chip, leading up to a 1GHz version next year.

An 800MHz Athlon is on the docket for the first quarter of next year. AMD, at Comdex/Fall, also demonstrated a 900MHz version of the chip.

While the Athlon will grab all the headlines, AMD also introduced a new K6-2 chip, Monday. The new version of the chip will run at 533MHz. It will be utilized in PCs from manufacturers including a new Presario model from Compaq.

AMD says the new 750MHz Athlon will be priced at $799 in 1,000 unit quantities, while the 533MHz K6-2 chip will cost $167. Actual street prices on the chips, however, may vary.


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