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AMD to unveil new chips, delay others

Advanced Micro Devices is to unveil a pair of new desktop PC processors, but is delaying some future products to suit market conditions.

Advanced Micro Devices will unveil a pair of new desktop PC processors on Thursday but has delayed some future products.

The chipmaker will announce its new 1.3GHz and 1.33GHz Athlon chips for desktop PCs. The new, more powerful Athlon chips will be available immediately in PCs from Compaq Computer and Hewlett-Packard.

At the same time, AMD has slightly delayed other products to suit market conditions and its own internal strategic plans. A desktop version of Palomino, an enhanced version of Athlon that will run faster, will now come out in the third quarter.

Morgan, a similarly enhanced version of the budget Duron processor, also has been delayed until the third quarter. Originally, both chips were due in the fourth quarter of 2000, but later were pushed back to the first half of this year.

The company also confirmed earlier reports that Palomino-based notebooks won't emerge until the second quarter, rather than this month.

AMD executives said the chipmaker chose to push back the desktop chips so that the company can first focus its efforts on bringing the chips to market in notebooks as well as in workstations and servers.

The risk of delay is also not huge. The current Athlon desktop chip can be extended well past 1.3GHz, said AMD, which will allow the company to stay close to rival Intel in the speed race. Speed is only one factor in chip performance, but it is one of the most crucial when it comes to consumer marketing. The Pentium 4 tops out at 1.5GHz, but a 1.7GHz version is due in May.

"We can keep the leadership with the cores we have now and concentrate on Palomino" for mobile uses, said Mark de Frere, product marketing manager in AMD's Computational Products Group.

AMD's mobile Athlon chip will "ship in volume this quarter up to 1GHz...to enable (manufacturer) availability next quarter," he added.

The chipmaker also plans to introduce a Palomino chip for single- and dual-processor workstations and servers in the second quarter. This chip is expected to offer a larger cache. AMD will pair the new chip with its 760MP chipset, which it also plans to ship in the second quarter.

This isn't the first time AMD has pushed back Palomino and Morgan. Last November, AMD canceled a version of Athlon for multiprocessor servers, called Mustang, citing a lack of interest from PC makers. The Mustang chip was based on the same core design as Palomino and Morgan.

AMD also pushed back its mobile Palomino and Morgan chips from a fourth-quarter launch to the first quarter and second quarter of 2001, respectively.

AMD says its Palomino desktop chips will now ship in the third quarter at speeds of 1.5GHz and higher. The chips, according to a statement by AMD CEO Jerry Sanders during the company's recent fourth-quarter 2000 earnings call, were expected in the second quarter at speeds of 1.4GHz and later 1.5GHz.

The launch of Morgan chips was moved from the second quarter to the third quarter of 2001. The chips are now slated to run at 900MHz or faster.

Despite initially adverse publicity, analysts said pushing back the desktop chips is not likely to damage AMD in the long run.

"There's evidence that (the current Athlon design) is capable of doing better than 1.3GHz, so there'd be no need for Palomino at those speeds," said Dean McCarron, principal at market research firm Mercury Research. "As a result, that would push back when AMD needed Palomino to be delivered by a quarter."

If anything, AMD has slowed the pace of its processor introductions a bit, from one about every six weeks in 2000 to about one per quarter this year.

However, the jumps in clock speed "we're making in Athlon are larger now," de Frere said. "We're still pushing the envelope. We launch products when we think they're needed in the marketplace."

AMD says its new Athlon chips pack plenty of punch for current uses such as multimedia content.

The 1.3GHz and 1.33GHz chips will receive support from a number of PC makers, who will package the new Athlon chips with faster Double Data Rate (DDR) memory.

PCs from Compaq and HP offering the 1.3GHz and 1.33GHz chips will go on sale online immediately and will be available at retail starting in April. Gateway and Micron Electronics are expected to offer the newest chips at a later date in their desktops.

Compaq, for example, is offering on its Web site for $2,062 a Presario 7000 model configured with the 1.33GHz chip, 256MB of DDR SDRAM, a 60GB hard drive, DVD drive and a 17-inch monitor.

The 1.3GHz chip, priced by AMD at $318, will offer a 200MHz bus and should be paired with PC 133 SDRAM or PC 1600 DDR memory. The 1.33GHz chip, priced at $350, will offer a 266MHz bus and will be paired with PC 2100 or 266MHz DDR memory.