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K6-2 comes to notebooks next week

AMD is expected to roll out its first K6-2 chip specifically designed for laptops next week which may help drive down notebook prices even more.

Advanced Micro Devices is expected to roll out its first K6-2 microprocessor specifically designed for notebook computers next week, one of the first in a series of chip releases that will likely lead to lower-priced notebooks in 1999.

Additionally, the chip release is expected to be accompanied by an announcement that a large Japanese notebook vendor will announce that it will adopt AMD chips for notebooks in its domestic market, said sources.

The K6-2 chip for mobile computers will be similar to the K6-2 used in desktops, but consume less power. Reducing power consumption is crucial in the notebook market, because low-power chips require less insulation and extend battery life. The K6-2 chips for mobile will likely run at 300-MHz or more, predicted Kelly Spang, an analyst with Technology Business Research.

AMD last year released a low-power version of the K6 chip for notebooks last year. Both Compaq Computer and NEC Computer Systems released consumer notebooks based around the processor last year.

A few mobile vendors, such as Umax, have also released notebooks based around the K6-2-based chip for desktops, according to an AMD spokesman. AMD, however, has not officially released a K6-2 for notebooks, he added. The spokesman declined to discuss any upcoming product releases or deals but said that AMD planned a product announcement next week.

The ongoing battle for market share between Intel and upstart AMD is clearly spilling over into the mobile market. Along with declining prices for screens and other components, this will likely lead to portables for $1,499 and less.

In turn, these price declines will likely lead to a larger discount notebook market. Historically, notebooks have started at around $1,800 or more as computer vendors mostly catered to customers that placed a premium on performance. Last year, however, with the world awash in sub-$1,000 computers, customers started to demand better bargains in notebooks, said computer resellers. Demand existed for $3,000 units, but the models that sold quick were closeouts for around $1,300.

The turf war, and the consequent consumer benefits, actually seemed to have started rolling out yesterday when Intel quietly released a low-powered 300-MHz Pentium MMX chip for notebooks. IBM released two ThinkPad i series notebooks for the consumer market based on the chip yesterday. The lowest price new Thinkpad, the 1411, comes with a 14-inch screen, the 300-MHx Pentium MMX, 32MB of memory, and a 4.3GB hard drive for $1,599. IBM's lowest ThinkPad i now sells for $1,499.

Intel is expected to release low-cost Celeron processors for notebooks on January 25 as well as a new Pentium II with 256KB of integrated cache memory. The integrated Pentium II, code-named "Dixon," is expected to run at approximately 366 MHz. The new chips will also lead to price cuts on existing Intel mobile processors.

AMD, for its part, will counter with "Sharptooth," a K6-2 with 256KB of integrated, secondary cache sometime in the first quarter. Sharptooth will be targeted at the mobile market, Rob Herb, chief marketing executive at AMD has said. (AMD code names come from the film The Land that Time Forgot.)