AMD launches 1GHz microprocessor

The race is over: AMD has made it to the 1GHz finish line before its main rival

Microprocessor manufacturer AMD delivered a huge smack in the face to arch industry rival Intel today by announcing the launch of its 1GHz Athlon processor.

A UK spokesperson for AMD this morning confirmed that the 1GHz processor, along with the 900MHz and 950MHz Athlons, are being launched "as of now". They will, however, be officially launched by company execs at 8:00am EST (1:00pm GMT) in the US today.

According to a media alert issued on AMD's Web site Sunday, the 1GHz Athlon will be launched with all the accompanying fanfare of live satellite coverage at the start of the day in the US.

A press release issued by AMD this morning dramatically announces today's launch. The delight at beating Intel is not hard to detect.

"The commencement of commercial shipments of 1GHz AMD Athlon processors is a watershed event not only for AMD, but also for the personal computer industry," says Jerry Sanders, chairman and CEO of AMD in a statement. "The introduction of a PC processor capable of executing one billion clock cycles per second is our industry's equivalent of breaking the sound barrier."

This release also indicates that AMD stalwarts Compaq and Gateway will both unveil 1GHz based machines today.

AMD and Intel have been locked in a race to release the first 1GHz processor for the PC market for weeks. According to reports, Intel has already moved the planned launch date of its 1GHz Pentium III processor forward to this week, a decision that's likely to have forced AMD's hand. Some sources suggest that Intel may even have brought its launch date forward to Wednesday in an attempt to outdo AMD.

Most observers acknowledge that the race to launch a 1GHz processor is largely symbolic, the benefit for the winner being considerable kudos, not to mention press coverage.

The benefit for consumers is less clear, however. Moving the launch dates forward could mean a greater delay before 1GHz-based PCs appear in the shops in any quantity. The necessity of a 1GHz-powered computer is also debatable, although gamers are likely to be targeted strongly.

These new chips are also not cheap. The 1GHz Athlon is priced at $1,299 (£822) per unit in 1,000 unit quantities. The 950MHz processor costs $999 (£632) each per 1,000 and the 900MHz Athlon $899 (£569) each per 1,000.

The most noticeable benefit to the consumer will instead be a forthcoming reduction in the cost of other lower-speed processors and PCs.

The main difference between AMD's and Intel's 900MHz to 1GHz microprocessors is likely to be the size of the bus -- the pipeline between the chip and chipset. It's believed that Intel's 900MHz plus range of chips will come with a 133MHz bus, while AMD's feature a 200MHz bus.

Intel, which must be smarting from this manoeuvre, has nevertheless refused to be drawn into a public slanging match. A spokesman says simply: "We are obviously not going to comment on another company's product."

This representatvie, however, also says that Intel's 1GHz processor will be launched, "very, very soon."

What's ahead for PC developments in the chip market suggest Intel may be in trouble. Rival AMD is frontrunner with its 850 MHz Athlon. Go to AnchorDesk and read what Jesse Berst has to say about the rift and what it will mean to you.

For full coverage, see 1GHz: The whole story.

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