If there ever was a case study for the uphill battle that AMD must face to get its chips into the marketplace (64-bit or not), today's announcement of the $999 Turion 64-based nx6125 notebook computer by HP is probably it. The Turion is AMD's most power-aware and conservative mobile chip to date that includes the AMD64 technology -- a 32-bit/64-bit hybrid architecture that supports traditional 32-bit applications as well as ones written to take advantage of AMD's 64-bit extensions. To get the lowdown on the announcement, I interviewed AMD's director of enterprise business development Ed Gasiorowski and HP's acting director of commercial notebooks Steve Schultis. The interview is available as an MP3 that can be downloaded or, if you’re already subscribed to ZDNet’s IT Matters series of audio podcasts, it will show up on your system or MP3 player automatically. (See ZDNet’s podcasts: How to tune in).
As you can hear in the downloadable version of the interview, HP officials won't allow themselves to get cornered into answering questions about how the new notebook compares in performance or battery life to HP's comparably equipped Intel-based offerings. Instead, said Schultis, HP is offering the notebook to give customers choice. However, if customers want help in making that choice, they're on their own to find any independently offered benchmarks that might help to set the Turion-based offering apart from its competitors. Meanwhile, you know that HP is perfectly aware of where the processor fits in because no system vendor blindly builds product around a microprocessor technology without benchmarking it first. (Shultis did say that the battery life is in the 3.5 to 4 hour class).
Meanwhile, AMD is doing everything under the sun to demonstrate that its chips offer technical superiority in numerous ways over their closest Intel competitors. It's as if some of the most significant information that AMD wants to get into decision makers' hands must be filtered out of the channel by vendors who offer both AMD and Intel-based products. In the interview, Shultis doesn't dispute that HP has an existing relationship to Intel to which it must remain sensitive.
But the awkwardness doesn't stop there. Whereas AMD will tell you that its highest performance mobile processor -- the Mobile Athlon 64 -- is targeted at performance-hungry workstation-class users who are seeking desktop replacements, HP will tell you that it's reaching out to those same users with the Turion offering based on its 64-bit capabilities and how those capabilities lend themselves to the types of applications that workstation class users typically run. One important issue to note is that Intel doesn't yet have a hybrid offering for mobile systems. Eventually, we arrive at a final position for the product that involves those types of users, but ones who don't want to carry a heavier, more power-hungry notebook around, but who are also in the business class that HP is targeting with the new notebook: small to medium businesses. I think it's nichey. They appear to disagree.
But if it's having the 64-bit capability in a compact power-conservative package that matters, then the announcement gets even more confusing when Schultis notes that it is only available with the 32-bit version of Windows XP instead of the 64-bit version. Schultis is quick to point out that the company sees the notebook as an offering that will give customers the flexibility to upgrade to a 64-bit OS somewhere down the line while reminding me that its 32-bit performance is very good. But how good compared to other offerings? HP won't say. The notebook gets cool factor points, though, for having a built-in fingerprint reader that automates password entry into applications and web sites. At $999, it's an inexpensive way to get exposed to the benefits of the AMD64 architecture in a mobile environment from a Tier 1 vendor.