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At Comdex, AMD touts win, bangs head

The chipmaker's CEO announces a customer win and the official name of the company's new desktop processor during a keynote featuring digital guitars and a cameo from a rock star.

LAS VEGAS--Advanced Micro Devices' CEO Hector Ruiz announced a customer win and the name of the chipmaker's next-generation of desktop processors during a Comdex Fall 2002 keynote that featured talk of digital guitars and a cameo from a rock star.

As expected, the Sunnyvale, Calif.-based company signed Northeast Utility, a New England power company, to a "medium-sized" deal that will result in the use of tens of thousands of AMD's processors. Northeast Utility ranks as number 273 on Fortune magazine's list of the 500 largest companies.

During his Tuesday speech, Ruiz also announced that the brand name of AMD's 64-bit desktop processor, codenamed ClawHammer, will be AMD Athlon 64. The chip will ship during the first half of next year.

The deal with Northeast Utility is part of AMD's push into the enterprise market as the chipmaker tries to cope with tough times. AMD recently let go of 1,100 employees as part of a restructuring plan designed to cut the company's costs by $350 million in 2003. A total of 2,000 employees, or 15 percent of AMD's staff, will be let go by the second quarter of next year, the company said recently.

Despite current woes, Ruiz tried to maintain his optimism for the future during a question and answer session.

"The next 18 months will be a good opportunity for businesses, and that's why we've been aggressive in looking to bolster our cash position," Ruiz said.

During his keynote, Ruiz emphasized that as the industry climbs out of the current economic recession, the success of a company's technology will be even more dependent on the efforts of its customers and partners.

Helping that process along for AMD will be the increased use of processors in new product categories.

"Transistors will find their way into many parts of our lives?they will be the plastic and steel of today's industry," Ruiz said. "It will no longer be about making chips cheaper?it will be about what our customers can do."

To illustrate the point, Ruiz introduced some recent partners, who demonstrated what they have managed to do using AMD processors.

The highlight guest was Gibson Guitar CEO Henry Juszkiewicz, who said the company was working on digital guitars that can interface with a PC to lay out tracks and make audio production easier for musicians. Ruiz and Juszkiewicz ended the keynote by joining guitarist Slash, of Guns N' Roses fame, for a rendition of "Knocking on Heaven's Door."

Also at the show, AMD demonstrated a working prototype of a 64-bit version of Microsoft's Windows operating system running on Opteron, the Athlon 64's sister chip for servers. RedHat and Covalent Technologies also offered a peek at a new version of the Apache Web server running on the forthcoming Opteron.'s John Spooner contributed to this report.