Sledgehammer... er, we'll see

Sledgehammer... sounds good doesn't it? But ask the industry and things aren't so clear...

The latest round of roadmap exchanges between chip-king Intel and challenger AMD reached a head today, following AMD's "Sledgehammer" revelation.

The chip-developer says its 64-bit Sledgehammer will compete head-on with Intel's 64-bit architecture. Luke Ireland, operations director at UK-based Evesham Micros views the whole fracas objectively: "Sledgehammer is due to ship in 2001, slightly after the Itanium launch. That's nearly 18 months away -- a long time in the computer business. AMD loves to compete, but Intel has vastly more experience in the development of high-end, corporate, multi-processing systems. AMD is competing fantastically against the PIII with their new Athlon chips, but has no experience in this, a very different market," says Ireland.

That different market may present AMD with an interesting opportunity to innovate, but, says Ireland, don't hold your breath. "Intel already has eight-way systems ready for the Xeon, taken up by IBM and Compaq among others. I think they are expected in the first quarter of 2000. AMD just wants to show its willingness to compete in other markets, and the Athlon did prove it could mount a serious challenge to Intel. We look at all chipsets and evaluate them regardless of vendor, adopting each on its merit."

Ireland said Evesham had dropped selected AMD K6 products in the past but had adopted the Athlon when it considered it a good chip. The company would evaluate Sledgehammer in the same way.

Like the consumer, the channel has to wait until 2001 to gauge the climate surrounding both 64-bit efforts.