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AMD moves ahead with MMX

AMD begins limited shipments of its next-generation K6 processor, the company's first MMX-capable chip.

Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) has begun limited shipments of its next-generation K6 processor, the company's first MMX-capable chip, which will compete with Intel's Pentium Pro processors and future Klamath P6-family processors.

The "Microsoft Windows-compatible" K6 is now shipping to key development partners, the company said. Initial commercial versions of the chip are expected to run at 166, 180, and 200 MHz, according to sources familiar with the processor rollout.

AMD will begin shipping the chip in commercial volumes late in the first quarter or early in the second quarter next year, an AMD spokesperson said.

The K6 will include support for Intel's MMX technology, which can speed up the performance of audio, graphics, and video for applications written specifically for MMX.

The AMD-K6 processor is designed to be compatible with Intel's Socket 7 for Pentium processors, which makes it easy for PC manufacturers to design the chip into new systems. However, the chip will not be compatible with Intel's Socket 8 for the Pentium Pro, which has a bus architecture more suitable for multiprocessing.

The K6 will also offer advancements such as a large 64K integrated cache and a more sophisticated internal architecture for speeding up execution of instructions compared to the K5, AMD's current high-end processor.

But AMD may find it tough to win first-tier PC vendors like Compaq over to its K6 because the company had to grapple with a host of problems and long delays when it tried to bring the K5 to market. Compaq had been slated to use the K5 but abandoned its plans because of problems with the processor.

But the possibility still exists that large PC vendors may ultimately adopt the processor in consumer PCs. "There are still signs that they're respected," said Mike Feibus, a principal at Mercury Research, a marketing research firm in Scottsdale, Arizona. "One of the lessons they've learned is 'Don't say what you can't do.' It looks pretty good because they're sampling [shipping] a month ahead of schedule," he added.

Currently, vendors such as Acer use the K5.

AMD said it shipped 500,000 K5 processors in the third quarter and expects to ship about 1 million this quarter.