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AMD releases 750-MHz Athlon

Advanced Micro Devices reclaims its PC processor speed crown with the release of the 750-MHz Athlon chip, which is garnering increased interest in part due to Intel Coppermine delays.

Advanced Micro Devices today reclaimed its PC processor speed crown with the release of the 750-MHz Athlon chip, as well as a 533-MHz K6-2 chip for the budget set.

As previously reported, the new processor, which will be priced at $799 in 1,000 unit quantities, is garnering increased interest, in part due to Intel Coppermine delays.

PC manufacturers Compaq Computer and IBM are among the supporters of the new chip, which is the fastest PC processor released to date.

Compaq also said today it will come out with a Presario PC incorporating the new K6-2. The new K6-2 costs $167 in volume quantities. AMD did not cut prices on existing chips but may do so soon.

Less clear is whether Gateway will adopt the Athlon for its consumer computers, which sources close to the company said would likely happen soon. Earlier this year, Gateway halted an Athlon project, according to sources, and subsequently eliminated the bulk of AMD chips from its product line.

Consumer interest in Athlon--combined with difficulties some PC makers say they are having in getting large volumes of the fastest Intel "Coppermine" Pentium III processors--is pushing some major computer makers to take a second look at Athlon.

Earlier this month, Dan Niles, an analyst at BancBoston Robertson, Stephens, said that both Gateway and HP would likely release Athlon systems. Since then, other analysts have said that a Gateway system was in the cards.

AMD representatives would not discuss any new partnerships.

Compaq will offer 750-MHz Athlon models in its Presario 5900Z line. The base model, which comes with 128 MB of RAM, 27-GB hard drive, 10X DVD-ROM drive, 16MB 3dfx Voodoo 3500 graphics card, 56K modem and 17-inch monitor, sells for $2,549.

IBM will offer the 750-MHz Athlon on its Aptiva S Series 870, which features broadband DSL connectivity.

Although it has been battered by financial losses in recent quarters, AMD has seen a surge in its fortunes in recent weeks. The Athlon processor, a highly touted chip, was difficult to find in PCs when first released in August because of a shortage of motherboards. Supplies of Athlon PCs have since increased.

The company has also sold out many of the speed grades of its lower-priced K6-2 processor. In addition, supplies of the fastest Pentium III have been relatively tight, said several PC manufacturers.

As a result of the uptick in sales, the company has said there is a strong chance that it will break even or even make a profit for the fourth quarter.

"The 750-MHz Athlon systems should be available from top-tier [computer makers] by year's end, a quarter ahead of schedule," said CEO Jerry Sanders at the company's analyst meeting on Nov. 11. "There is no question we are moving up the food chain. We're experiencing a strong quarter. Demand for all our products is robust."