AMD today played down fears that Intel's refusal to license its Katmai New Instructions set will hurt its compatibility record, and claimed that it will have a similar chip in PCs as much as a year before its arch-rival.
Intel has said it will keep the Katmai instruction set proprietary, diverging from the route it took with the MMX set which it licensed to AMD, Cyrix and other x86 chip makers. The 70-instruction Katmai set is regarded as 'MMX-2' and both instruction sets aim to boost multimedia performance in key areas such as 3D, motion video, graphics rendering and audio. Intel plans a release for a 32-bit Katmai processor in the first half of 1999 but details are otherwise scant.
"[Katmai is] their version of our K6-3D," said Richard Baker, European marketing manager for PC products at AMD.
K6-3D is a version of the current K6 Pentium MMX-class processor with 3D graphics routines integrated in order to take some load off the graphics processor and boost overall system performance. Baker said that AMD's version of the revised instruction set adds 24 new instructions that predominantly focus on speeding graphics performance.
AMD's boast is that it will have the K6-3D in May PCs, giving it a lead over Intel of up to a year, or, in Baker's words "conservatively, a nine-month lead".
Baker said that having two competing 'MMX-2' instruction sets will not lead to market confusion. "Software developers write to [Microsoft API] Direct X for Windows 98 and don't even have to know what the processor is," he said.
However, Baker agreed that games makers may write native code in order to get extra performance. One of the first games to showcase the K6-3D's abilities will be Trespasser, the latest in Dreamworks' Jurassic Park series.
A fly in the ointment for AMD could be a problem that has long plagued it: the ability to supply parts in sufficient numbers. "There's still a demand-supply mismatch," Baker admitted.