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Four play: AMD chip name to echo Pentium

As part of its rivalry with Intel and the Pentium 4, Advanced Micro Devices is calling its new chip--due next week--the Athlon 4, despite the lack of an Athlon 2 or 3.

Forget the Athlon 2 or 3. Advanced Micro Devices is going to call its next chip the Athlon 4.

As part of its ongoing rivalry with Intel, AMD will call its new chip, coming out next week, the Athlon 4, according to sources. Presumably, the name change comes as a way to better market the chip against Intel's Pentium 4.

There is no Athlon 2 or 3. Since 1999, all of the chips in the family have been called Athlon.

The naming scheme will also let AMD claim a partial marketing victory in that its No. 4 chip will appear in notebooks in May. Intel won't squeeze a Pentium 4 into notebooks until the first half of 2002.

The branding shenanigans were first reported on tech site Ace's Hardware.

Code-named Palomino, the Athlon 4 will contain a number of improvements. Most importantly, the chip will consume far less power than current Athlon chips, according to AMD. Athlon chips right now consume about 60 watts of power, more than the Pentium III or 4.

By ratcheting down the power consumption, AMD will be able to slip the chip into notebooks. The chip will appear in notebooks first, then servers and desktops.

Processor brand names are a slippery science. Although in the past, Intel and AMD changed brand names when they changed microarchitectures, both companies began to more rapidly change brand names to fit different market segments in the late 1990s.

The same basic microarchitecture, for instance, was used in the Pentium Pro, Pentium II, Pentium III, Celeron and Xeon. The chips differ in terms of packaging, speed, cache size, bus speed and other features, but share a common computing unit.

Similarly, the K6-2 and K6-III from AMD shared the same core. More often than not, AMD has followed Intel's branding campaigns. AMD, for example, followed Intel in coming out with a budget brand. AMD's Duron chip is a lower cost Athlon and serves a similar purpose as Intel's Celeron.

The Greco-Romanesque Athlon name also echoed the gladiatorial splendor of Celeron and Xeon. Until the name appeared, many expected the chip to be called the K-7.

An AMD representative declined to comment.