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AMD launches companion chips

Hoping that two Athlons prove better than one, Advanced Micro Devices launches chips that will allow high-end computers to use two of AMD's flagship processors simultaneously.

    TAIPEI, Taiwan--Hoping that two Athlons prove better than one, Advanced Micro Devices on Tuesday launched chips that will allow high-end computers to use two of AMD's flagship processors simultaneously.

    At a press conference at the Computex trade show here, AMD introduced the AMD-760 MP companion chips, which support Double Data Rate (DDR) memory, and mutiprocessor-capable versions of the Athlon itself. AMD said the new processors and chipset will be used in servers and workstations from more than 20 computer makers.

    AMD did not say which makers will offer dual Athlon computers, but said motherboard maker Tyan will be the first to come out with motherboards--which house a PC's main circuitry--that support such systems. AMD said other motherboard makers, including Abit Asus and Gigabit, also have products under development.

    Analysts have said that AMD faces a tough road in lining up big-name customers to develop AMD-based servers. However, analysts say server makers are reluctant to adopt any new chip, not just ones from AMD.

    "It has no reflection on AMD," Mercury Research analyst Dean McCarron said last month. "You see the same behavior with Intel products...a lot of (server makers) don't even use Intel's new products."

    AMD has elected not to use Computex to launch a faster 1.4GHz version of its Athlon or a new 950MHz version of its budget Duron chip. A source close to the company said an announcement is coming soon but will not be made during the show.

    AMD CEO Jerry Sanders promised in a recent conference call that the 1.4GHz chip would appear in the second quarter.

    As for the multiprocessor-capable Athlon, AMD said it will initially be available in two speeds, 1.2GHz and 1GHz. The 1.2GHz version is priced at $265 in 1,000-unit volumes, with the 1GHz version priced at $215 in volume.

    AMD Vice President Ed Ellett said AMD now has products in all segments of the market: notebooks, desktops, servers and workstations. More importantly, Ellett said the company has products that can outperform the competition--that is, Intel.

    "While it's great to be in the game, we're not here just to offer token competition," Ellett said.

    On the notebook front, AMD is showing prototypes from several Taiwanese manufacturers that use its new mobile Athlon chip. Compaq was the first to adopt AMD's new mobile chips in its laptops, while Sony, NEC and Fujitsu have also said they will bring out products with the chips.

    Announcements of other new customers could come later this month, said AMD Product Marketing Manager Martin Booth.

    Although AMD had six of the top 10 laptop makers as customers last year with its low-end K6-2 chip, Booth said the company is in better shape now as its chips can serve more of the market.