Axe falls on AMD low-end processors

Production will end next summer for AMD's 486, 586 and K6-2 processors, in a decision that some customers call a major blow to the embedded market

AMD is to stop producing its K6-2 processors next summer, in a move that some are calling a "major blow" to the embedded market. The company also plans to stop production of its 486 and 586 processors which, like the bulk of the K6-2s now produced, are used in embedded applications.

Some 586 and K6-2 chips can still be bought for PCs that have old motherboards, and their place as the most basic processors now generally available for PCs will be taken by the Duron. "Obviously there are not that many K6-2 parts used in PCs now," said AMD's European marketing manager Richard Baker. "They are used in some mobile products, but the Duron is now replacing it there."

However, some of the chips to be discontinued that were designed for the embedded market, such as the K6-2E+, were launched as recently as October 2000. Baker said the company will have plenty of stock to continue supplying the embedded market, "both assembled stock and die-back".

But assurances of continued supplies were not enough to placate some AMD customers. VersaLogic, a company that makes embedded computers, said in a letter to customers that it was "surprising that [AMD's] long-standing dedication to the embedded market has taken such an abrupt turn." The decision was, said VersaLogic "a major blow to the embedded market." The company said that for some customers it may mean switching to versions of its products based on Intel's Tillamook processor.

Production capacity at Fab 25, where the processors are produced, will be switched to flash memory, said Baker. The K6-2 processor was launched in May 1998 as a cheaper alternative to Intel's Pentium II, and while it lacked the floating point performance of its competitor, the K6-2's price/performance ratio was attractive to many PC manufacturers and their customers.

The K6-III was axed earlier this year due to a lack of demand in the face of continuing popularity of the K6-2, which it was supposed to replace.

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