Comdex: AMD steps up the pressure

AMD is set to provide enterprises with a genuine alternative to Intel in all categories of PCs. The Californian chip maker's plan will help bring down prices and spur competition across mobile, desktop and server computing.

At this week's Comdex, AMD detailed its plans to build on recent successes in consumer PCs with a push on the commercial and notebook sector. The roadmap looks solid and represents perhaps a serious challenge to Intel's near-monopoly of the space. Early in 1999, AMD plans to release Sharptooth, a successor to its K6-2 processor aimed at the mainstream market which should be particularly effective on Windows NT. Bolstered by a 128KB L1 cache and 256KB L2 on-chip cache, the 400MHz chip outperformed a 450MHz Pentium II based on the Winstone 98 benchmark in a show demonstration.

"NT is a very integer intensive operating system and the L2 cache will give us a very big boost," said Byran Longmire, AMD product marketing manager. In the middle of the year, the firm will follow up with its K7 processor aimed at workstations and servers. AMD is confident both Sharptooth and K7 will best Intel's planned introduction of high-end chips next year, complete with Katmai New Instructions multimedia set that accelerates 3D and other graphics elements - a view supported by semiconductor watchers familiar with the plans.

AMD will also have enjoyed a long lead in multimedia performance as it expects to have shipped about 10 million chips with the 3D Now! multimedia instruction set by the time Katmai arrives. If the chip matches early indications of performance it will mean AMD has a full set of devices for every market although it admits the long evaluation cycles of corporates mean the PC server space will remain almost exclusively Intel's until the year 2000 at least. To that end the firm is working with partners to build chipset support that enables symmetric multiprocessing.

This week, AMD launched faster desktop chips and its first K6 chip aimed specifically at the mobile market. Early in 1999 it will have mobile K6-2 devices and in the second half of the year the first notebooks to support AGP and a 100MHz bus. AMD should also be able too manufacture plenty of parts once its Dresden fabrication plant opens late next year.

No pricing for the future chips was given but AMD has long shadowed Intel pricing by offering its chips for 25 percent less for the same performance grades offering a potential saving of about £50 on mainstream PCs and much more on high-end systems.

AMD INSIDE?

  • Now - 366, 380 and 400MHz K6-2 aimed at mainstream desktops and mobile K6 for notebooks.

  • Jan-Mar 99 - 450MHz Sharptooth chip with full-speed backside L2cache. "Similar" performance to Pentium II.

  • Jan-Jun 99 - Mobile K6-2 and Sharptooth with 100MHz bus and AGP.

  • Apr-Jun 99 - 500MHz + K7 based on Compaq 200MHz Alpha EV6 bus and offering top-end performance based on new architecture. 128KB L1cache, 512KB/1MB L2 cache.

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