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Where for art thou, Barcelona?

When is AMD's quad-core Barcelona server processor due?

Updated 6/29/07@6:57 a.m. PST: AMD’s much anticipated (both in this blog and elsewhere) quad-core Barcelona chip will arrive in September at will run at clock speeds of up to 2GHz.

That, by all accounts, is a much later launch than AMD was originally targeting. The chipmaker had been aiming for a mid-year introduction, which most believed meant it would announced Barcelona’s arrival this month. On the other hand, I imagine customers would rather have AMD deliver Barcelona in significant quantities and at sufficient clock speeds than to simply launch it, say it’s on time, and make them wait for processors.

AMD is now aiming to begin shipments of the new quad-core Opteron processor to customers—something it calls shipping for revenue, meaning it’s getting paid for the processors even though they’re not yet shipping in systems—in August. The timing of its actual launch may not even have a major impact on the company’s third quarter earnings, however. Clearly, the sooner in August it starts shipments for revenue the better. However, shipment volumes of brand new server processors don’t generally increase very quickly. Barcelona shipments will most likely ramp through the second half of 2007 before hitting their stride in the first half of 2008. That’s just how it goes in the server space where customers tend to be slower to adopt new technologies than in areas such as gaming desktops, where buyers can’t wait to get a hold of the latest technology.

Meanwhile, AMD plans to add additional, higher-speed Barcalona Opterons the fourth quarter of 2007.

The question that remains is what becomes of the Phenom desktop processor? Will AMD get the quad-core desktop chip, which shares circuitry with Barcelona, out in time for the big holiday season? It has time, but given the timing and its positioning Phenom will likely show up in a few high-end PC models. It, too, won’t likely become widespread until 2008.

Given the way things are unfolding for AMD, it’s shaping up to be an interesting 2008 for computer buyers. Both AMD and Intel will have all new processors to tout. AMD will be on the comeback path with quad-core Barcelona and Phenom, while Intel will be shipping its next-generation Penryn processor family. There will be no letup in this battle any time soon.