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AMD to market discount Sempron

Advanced Micro Devices plans to come out with a chip in the second half of 2004 geared toward notebooks under $999 and desktops under $549.

Sempron, thy name is bargain.

Advanced Micro Devices will come out with a chip in the second half of the year called Sempron that is geared toward notebooks that cost less than $999 and desktops that sell for under $549.

Sempron will be sold worldwide. AMD did not provide any technical details or specify whether the chip would derive from the older Duron/Athlon/Athlon XP line or the Athlon 64 line.

Both AMD and rival Intel have used bargain chips to expand their market share and insulate their premier chip brands from price erosion. In the late 1990s, Intel introduced Celeron, a scaled-down version of the Pentium, and AMD came out with Duron, a cut-rate version of its Athlon and Athlon XP chips.

Generally, the budget chips share the same basic processor core as the more expensive models, but they run slower, come with slower buses and have less performance-enhancing cache.

In recent years, however, AMD's segment marketing has become a bit muddled. The Sunnyvale, Calif.-based company discontinued Duron, but then brought it back to satisfy demand in China. New Durons are now also being sold in Latin America, according to an AMD representative.

In the United States and Europe, the company has mostly used its Athlon XP chip to satisfy the budget and midtier markets while selling its Athlon 64 chip to gamers and performance buffs. The Sempron name will therefore let the company more tidily keep the Athlon name confined to the more lucrative markets.

Both Intel and AMD are also looking at ways to create even cheaper chips targeted exclusively at emerging markets. Details have been scant, but both Intel President Paul Otellini and AMD CEO Hector Ruiz have said their companies are trying to tackle this problem.

As with its other chips, AMD reached into its high school Latin textbook to coin the name. The Latin word "semper" means "always." AMD says the name will connote a chip that is used every day.

A derivation of semper, "sempra" is used in various curses in Harry Potter books, but AMD appears to have avoided any major name gaffes. This has not always been the case. Celeron turned out to be the birthplace of Lucille Ball, and Athlon is the name of a laminated panel used as a divider for bathroom stalls.