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AMD takes speed crown in notebooks

Advanced Micro Devices takes the lead in notebook speed over Intel today with new chips that run as fast as 380 MHz and that are allowing AMD to enter the business market.

Advanced Micro Devices took the lead in notebook speed over Intel today with new chips that run as fast as 380 MHz and that are allowing AMD to enter the business market.

AMD released the 350-MHz and 380-MHz K6-2 P processors today, two low-powered K6-2 chips for notebooks. And, although Intel has said it will top this with 400-Mhz and 433-MHz notebook Pentium IIs toward the middle of the year, the chips give AMD a temporary advantage over its rival. Intel's fastest notebook-specific chip is a 366-MHz Pentium II.

But more importantly, the chips mark the entry of AMD processors into business machines. Compaq said today that it has incorporated the processors into its new Prosignia 150 notebooks for medium-sized businesses.

To date, AMD processors have largely been used in consumer computers. Inclusion in the Prosignia line will mean that AMD has cracked the business computer market, which is both larger and generally more profitable. Compaq has used AMD processors in the past, but in its consumer Presario line. The boost for Compaq is that AMD-based Prosignias will allow it to cut costs in this hotly competitive market.

Recently, Toshiba started incorporating K6-2 processors into its Satellite line of notebooks in the United States, which straddle the line between consumer and business notebooks.

"Compaq's decision to offer mobile K6-2 P processor-based Prosignia notebooks reflects AMD's growing momentum in the small and medium sized business marketplace," said Dana Krelle, vice president of marketing at AMD. The K6-2 P processor is the same basic processor as the K6-2 but it operates at a lower voltage of 2.2 volts. Lower power consumption allows for better battery life and reduces heat output, which can ease some of the thermal design issues that can come up with fast mobile processors.

Intel, of course, is not standing still in notebooks. Toward the middle of the year, the company will roll out 400-MHz and 433-MHz Pentium II mobile processors with 256KB integrated cache, Robert Jecmen, vice president of Intel's mobile and handheld product group, said last month. These processors will be based around the 0.18-micron manufacturing process and will likely be the first PC processors in the industry made on this process. Intel will then follow up with a 500-MHz Pentium III early in the second half, which will mark the entry of the Pentium III line to mobile devices.

As part of the launch of Pentium III into the mobile space, Intel will release its "Geyserville" technology. Geyserville allows processors to run at lower megahertz when on battery power than when plugged in. A 600-MHz notebook chip, for example, will run at 500-MHz when unplugged to conserve battery power. This will not only prolong battery life, it will free notebook vendors from the burden of deliberately designing notebooks around slower chips because of battery life.

"We expect to deliver near desktop performance by the end of the year for the first time," Jecmen said. As a result, battery power is conserved; conversely, notebooks can run at higher speeds when plugged in.

New Celerons
For the value line, Intel will release a 333-MHz Celeron for notebooks in the second quarter, a 366-MHz Celeron during the summer, and a 400-MHz version in the second half. In addition, the company will release the 440 MX chipset, code-named Bannister, which will make it possible to adopt soft modems and soft audio functions.

The notebook effort comes as part of an effort to maintain Intel's historic growth rates. Computer shipments will continue to grow in double digit figures, Paul Otellini, general manager of the Intel Architecture Business Group, said in February In fact, by the year 2000, PC sales will likely outpace TV sales worldwide. Prices, however, continue to drop. More ominous, approximately 70 to 80 percent of all current purchases come from repeat buyers.

"We have to find the recipe to bring the rest of the 50 percent of the U.S. households and 80 percent of the homes on a worldwide basis," to the computing market, he said.

As for notebooks, he added: "You will see notebooks go from $1,900 to $1,500 to $1,200. We are working with our partners in the industry to find the next price point. We don't know if it will be $999, but we will work with our partners to establish the new price point."