It doesn't seem like much, but naming the second generation of Athlon microprocessors "Athlon 4" could give Advanced Micro Devices a boost against rival Intel.
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AMD revs mobile chips up to 1GHz
The naming of Athlon 4--clearly echoing Pentium 4, which Intel has announced but not shipped in quantity--seems even less substantial. AMD will not get high grades for marketing creativity. However, the company may benefit more than many people think because the move co-opts some of the hype generated by Intel's own marketing machine. The Athlon 4 name says, "AMD can play this game, too."
Still more significant, AMD has announced that the first Athlon 4 chips will appear in notebooks rather than in desktop computers. AMD believes it has a better chance against Intel in notebooks than on the desktop, and Gartner concurs because Intel's next-generation mobile processor is still several months away. With a power requirement of 20 watts, Athlon 4 is best suited to the desktop-replacement class of notebooks, which traditionally weigh around 7 pounds. Thus, AMD will increase its mind share by beating its rival to the punch in next-generation technology for notebooks.
In the end, however, AMD will still find itself having to play the role of giant-killer. AMD does well in the consumer market, but it will not seriously threaten Intel until it can crack the enterprise market as well. To date, no major manufacturer--notably, Compaq Computer, Dell Computer, Hewlett-Packard or IBM--has put Athlon chips into its PCs for corporate customers. Getting the big PC makers to use Athlon remains AMD's biggest challenge.
(For related commentary on determining whether a 1GHz processor really makes sense, see TechRepublic.com--free registration required.)
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