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Athlon64 set for Sept. 22 release

Advanced Micro Devices inadvertently reveals the planned release date for a new generation of desktop and notebook chips--its best chance yet to break into the business PC market.

Advanced Micro Devices is aiming to release a new generation of desktop and notebook chips on Sept. 22, according to an internal document inadvertently released by the company.

AMD's press release schedule, accidentally made public in a mass e-mail on Monday, revealed that date for the unveiling of the Athlon64 for desktops and the Athlon64-M for notebooks.

Hewlett-Packard has already said it will adopt Athlon64 in its desktop line. Last month, HP inadvertently posted specifications pertaining to the chip.

The Athlon64 is AMD's best chance yet to break into the market for business PCs. The chip comes with a number of performance enhancements, including an integrated memory controller.

Additionally, it runs 32-bit software, the kind found on desktops today, and 64-bit software, found on high-end workstations and servers. Intel desktop chips don't have the latter capacity. AMD executives acknowledge that 64-bit desktops, which can take advantage of more memory than 32-bit desktops, will be relatively rare at first, but assert that gamers' enthusiasm and word-of-mouth marketing might be able to build momentum for these desktops.

The chip also comes as AMD continues to suffer financial losses and lose market share. From the end of 1986 through the first quarter of this year, AMD's cumulative net earnings, including sell-offs and acquisition expenses, come to about $221 million, about the same amount of money Intel makes every three weeks. AMD is expected to lose money in the second quarter as well.

The Sunnyvale, Calif.-based chipmaker said in January that the chips would come out in September, but did not provide a release date at the time. The Athlon64 line has been subject to a series of delays over the past

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two years--before January's delay, the chip had been expected in April.

The exact launch date could change yet again. AMD has reserved space at the Moscone Convention Center in San Francisco on Sept. 30, but it is unclear what the purpose of that meeting is. Generally, the company holds its big press conferences touting new products in New York or San Jose, Calif.

AMD declined to comment on the dates, but acknowledged that the document was an internal file accidentally released to the outside world.

The document contains other interesting tidbits as well. Later this summer, the company is expected to announce that it is working with a Chinese organization to build the world's fastest supercomputer in China. Germany's Max Planck Institute, one of the world's premier research organizations, is also using Athlon-based computers, according to the documents.

A new Opteron chip, the Opteron 246, is slated to debut on Aug. 4, according to the document.