The K5, a chip with a checkered past, has finally been put to rest as the low-end K6 gets set to take its place.
Advanced Micro Devices has ceased manufacturing its K5 microprocessor, a Pentium-compatible chip that failed to live up to expectations. Meanwhile the low end of the K6 processor lineup will fall below $100 later this year, effectively taking the K5's place, according to an AMD spokesperson.
Wafer production for the chip ended quietly at the end of last quarter, said company spokesman David Frink. But supply on hand means that the product "will be available for a couple of more quarters," he said.
The K5's history was a tumultuous one. Touted as a challenger to the Pentium chip, AMD was able to persuade Compaq to adopt the chip in 1995 for certain mainstream computer models. But that deal fell apart quickly amid performance problems, temporarily sending AMD's fortunes into a tailspin.
The aborted Compaq deal, coupled with the chip's shortcomings, effectively killed the its chances for any large, top-tier takers. AMD tried to salvage the K5 fiasco by quickly bringing out a fast 486 chip, but there were very few PC manufacturers interested in using this older chip technology.
Ironically, the K5 goes to its grave on the heels of recent design wins. Acer America rolled out a $799 home PC based around a 166-MHz K5 two weeks ago and Hewlett Packard adopted the K5 for a low-end business model.
Boundless Technologies, a maker of network computers, adopted the K5 this past May for a series of low-end terminal computers and Net PC-compliant computers.
Once the K5 disappears, the K6 will become AMD's only microprocessor. As a result, it will span a variety of price points. The 166-MHz K6 chips will sell for under $100, said Frink, making it a chip for sub-$1000 computers. On the other end of the spectrum, AMD will release a 266-MHz version of the chip later this year, and then a 300-MHz version for higher-end computers.