AMD accelerates toward 45nm

AMD says its on track to produce 45nm chips in mid-2008
Written by John G. Spooner, Contributor

Advanced Micro Devices is stepping on the accelerator when it comes to the deployment of its 45nm chip manufacturing technology. Douglas Grose, the company’s new manufacturing chief has told reporters that AMD could begin its first 45nm processor shipments as soon as the second quarter of 2008.

If all goes well—and the transition from 65nm to 45nm will take a lot of behind-the-scenes work by AMD and its partner, IBM—AMD will be able to deliver higher-performing, multi-core processors to its customers starting in mid-2008. The on-schedule, mid-2008 arrival of 45nm chip production at AMD would also mean that the chipmaker successfully narrowed the chip manufacturing process transition gap between itself and Intel. Intel moved to 65nm, its current manufacturing technology, about a year ahead of AMD. Intel began shipping 65nm Pentium D 900 series chips to customers in late 2005 in advance of their arrival in systems in January 2006, for example. Intel also uses its 65nm process to manufacture its Core Microarchitecture products, such as the Core 2 Duo and the Xeon 5100. AMD started shipping its first 65nm chips in October 2006 and the desktop chips were officially unveiled in December 2006.

Intel is now working to begin 45nm processor shipments in the second half of this year, meaning that its 45nm Penryn-family chips will be available in PCs by early 2008. Given that 45nm will offer advantages in processor performance—Intel, for one, expects Penryn to deliver significant performance increases while using the same or less power than current Core 2 Duo and Xeon 5000-series chips—as well as per-chip manufacturing costs, the sooner that either chipmaker can make the transition, the more competitive its products will be. AMD's fourth quarter performance, in which the company put up double-digit increases in unit shipments but still suffered a significantly reduced profit as a result of price competition  with Intel's Core Microarchitecture products, shows the difference that only a few months can make.

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