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AMD speeds up Duron; Athlon to follow

Advanced Micro Devices' new Duron chip will match the speed of Intel's 1.1GHz Celeron, and in another week the company will usher in its line of Athlon XP chips.

Advanced Micro Devices will begin October by releasing a series of processors for desktop PCs.

On Monday, the Sunnyvale, Calif.-based chipmaker will usher in a 1.1GHz Duron processor for the value segment of the PC market. The chip will match the clock speed of Intel's 1.1GHz Celeron, but benchmark testers have stated that the Duron could be a better overall value.

In another week, AMD will come out with its line of Athlon XP processors for performance PCs. Formerly code-named Palomino (and "Corvette" before that), the Athlon XP will be AMD's challenger to the Pentium 4. The new chip, which will run at 1.5GHz, will also feature a new branding scheme. The 1.5GHz chip will actually be known at the Athlon XP 1800, so as to look more sporting on shelves when compared with a 2GHz Pentium 4.

The company will then complete the silicon hat trick by revealing the technology behind its "Hammer" processors for servers at the Microprocessor Forum on Oct. 15 in San Jose, Calif. Hammer, slated to come out commercially next year, will compete against Intel's Itanium but will cost less, according to AMD.

AMD and Intel are bitter rivals when it comes to processors. For years, AMD lived in the shadow of the far larger Intel and competed largely by selling its chips for less. The picture then changed in August 1999, when AMD introduced the first Athlon. The chip drew rave reviews from analysts and consumers. Major PC manufacturers began to adopt the chip, allowing the company to raise its market share past 20 percent.

The company also came out with its first dual-processor chipset that would allow manufacturers to incorporate Athlon into servers.

In the past six months, however, Intel has simultaneously dropped the price and raised the speed of its Pentium 4 chips. PC sales have eroded, prompting computer makers to eliminate AMD chips from their lineups. IBM dropped Athlon from its North American and European PCs earlier this year. Last week, Gateway followed suit.

Due to the nature of the current market, AMD has already said it expects an operating loss for the quarter.

Pricing information for the 1.1GHz Duron was not immediately available, but consumers can expect it to be low. Because of the slow market and excess supplies, processors are selling at all-time low prices. AMD's 1.4GHz Athlon, for instance, is being advertised as $111 to $125, while the 1GHz Duron can be purchased for less than $80.