AMD finds Sanders successor at Motorola

Motorola exec Hector de Ruiz will be groomed to replace AMD CEO Jerry Sanders and continue the battle with Intel.

Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) turned to another chip maker to restock its executive suite -- finding a likely successor to Chairman and chief executive W.J. "Jerry" Sanders III.

The company on Tuesday named Hector de Ruiz, a former Motorola executive, as its new president and chief operating officer.

De Ruiz, 54, had been president of Motorola's Semiconductor Products Section in Austin, Texas, where he was in charge of the company's $7.3 billion (£4.4 billion) computer chip business and some 30,000 employees.

De Ruiz, who was with Motorola for 22 years, also becomes next in line when Sanders, 63, steps down. Sanders' contract expires at the end of 2001, the company said.

De Ruiz had forged a relationship with AMD and Sanders through a technology-sharing agreement between the two companies. AMD is using technology licensed from Motorola to manufacture Athlon processors in its Dresden, Germany, fabrication plan.

"It sounded like a lot of fun to come here and join the group and help fight what from my perspective is an 8,000-pound gorilla (Intel)," de Ruiz said.

He replaces Atiq Raza, who resigned last July after the company announced a devastating financial quarter.

De Ruiz has his work cut out for him, keeping AMD's Athlon line humming and the company on a roll.

Last week, AMD announced unexpectedly high fourth-quarter profits. These results correlate directly to the success of the Athlon processor, the company's answer to Intel's Pentium III chip line.

While AMD did not give out specifics on the number of Athlons shipped, the company said it met its goal of shipping 1 million of the chips by the end of 1999.

AMD recently added Gateway and then Hewlett-Packard to the list of PC makers using Athlon. The two join Compaq, IBM's Personal Systems Group and Cybermax as builders of Athlon systems aimed at consumers and small businesses.

AMD's Athlon chip, announced last August, is now available in speeds up to 800MHz. AMD has said it is sampling its 850MHz Athlon widely. Sources believe the chip will launch in February, with a 900MHz version not far behind. The chip is on track to hit 1GHz in the summer, sources said.

While AMD is definitely on a roll in the consumer market, it has far to go when it comes to the corporate market.

Information-technology managers at large companies, many of whom have standardised on PCs using Intel processors, are reticent to move to a new chip. They will have to be convinced that AMD is in it for the long haul and that there will be adequate supplies of Athlon chips that deliver the kind of performance they need. All that will take time, analysts said.

AMD, to its credit, has made inroads here already, with the addition of PC maker Pionex Elite. Pionex makes corporate desktops and workstations, which it sells through a network for value-added resellers.

Making this happen on a broader scale may be de Ruiz's biggest challenge.

AMD will formally begin attacking the corporate market in the second half of the year with a host of technologies aimed at workstations and servers. Those technologies will include Athlon chips with large integrated caches and dual-processor chip sets, among other things.

AMD has also said it will increase the speed of the Athlon bus from 200MHz to 266MHz and include support for double-data-rate synchronous dynamic RAM, also known as PC266. These will all add a performance spark to Athlon; it will then be up to the company to then persuade corporations to buy equipment using the technologies.

AMD may get some help in that mission from longtime partner IBM . Big Blue, according to sources, is evaluating Athlon for use in workstations.