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Commentary: Intel still runs rings around its rivals

AMD and Transmeta are pulling punches, but the chip giant won't go down--at least not in this round.

By Kevin Knox, Gartner Analyst

Like a durable heavyweight, chip giant Intel will withstand the latest jabs from AMD and kidney shots from Transmeta--at least in this round.

Despite Intel's continuing manufacturing delays and AMD's improving mind share, Intel still has the support

See news story:
Intel targets Crusoe with low-power notebook chips
of the majority of PC original equipment manufacturers (OEMs)--a key to its market dominance.

However, the one-two punch from competitors will pressure Intel to defend its market share. Transmeta's low power chip, Crusoe, is targeted at the thin and light mobile-market, while AMD's low-cost Duron aims for the low end of the PC market.

With Duron, AMD will gain a performance advantage over Intel and its own low-end processor, Celeron. Duron will run at 600 MHz, 650 MHz and 700 MHz (soon to be matched by Intel), but the AMD processor features a faster bus compared with Celeron's.

What does that mean? Not much. Quite frankly, a consumer who buys an $800 PC doesn't really know or care about the differences between a 200 MHz front-side bus and a 66 MHz front-side bus, or the differences in the amount of cache integrated into the processor.

Gartner does expect AMD to continue as a strong performer in the PC market's low end, where price is the main criterion for consumers. Transmeta, however, is going after a growing, yet still relatively small, segment of the market: thin and light mobile-devices. Transmeta will have to demonstrate its technical, financial and manufacturing prowess to succeed, or even make inroads into this Intel-dominated segment of the PC market.

Although Transmeta continues to gain attention due to the differentiated value it offers--that is, significantly longer battery life on thin and light mobile-devices--the company is still a relative unknown that has yet to demonstrate its ability to meet PC manufacturers' requirements.

In sum, it will take more than a couple pinpoint blows to take down Intel, the reigning champ.

(For related commentary on why administrators should care about Transmeta's new chip, see TechRepublic.com--free registration required.)

Entire contents, Copyright © 2000 Gartner Group, Inc. All rights reserved. The information contained herein represents Gartner's initial commentary and analysis and has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable. Positions taken are subject to change as more information becomes available and further analysis is undertaken. Gartner disclaims all warranties as to the accuracy, completeness or adequacy of the information. Gartner shall have no liability for errors, omissions or inadequacies in the information contained herein or for interpretations thereof.