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AMD chief salutes standard PC chips

CEO Hector Ruiz tells a TechXNY crowd that the use of standard components--such as its chips--will usher in computers that are smaller but more powerful.

NEW YORK--Advanced Micro Devices CEO Hector Ruiz is predicting that the use of standard components--such as its chips--will usher in computers that are smaller but more powerful.

Using standard parts will allow PC manufacturers to boost computing power and to lower both upfront prices and lifetime maintenance costs, AMD CEO Hector Ruiz said during a keynote speech at the TechXNY conference here.

In his speech Wednesday, Ruiz echoed remarks made the day before by Dell President Kevin Rollins, even though Dell does not use AMD chips. Their companies appear to agree that despite the computer industry's maturity, it will continue to turn out innovative products. That's because PC makers have access to a wide range of standard components, from which they can build high-performance computers, both company chiefs said.

Like Rollins, Ruiz said that adopting products built with standard components can help save companies money, because the purchase price of such gear is often lower and software more readily available, when compared with machines made from custom parts.

Chips such as AMD's Opteron server processor can be useful to businesses, because they allow servers to run the same basic software as other PCs and even as some handheld devices, Ruiz said.

The 64-bit Opteron and other AMD processors are adaptable like this because they are based on the x86 architecture. The x86 architecture is the basic design used to build processors for millions of PCs, servers and other computing devices. AMD chose to use the x86 architecture for its transition to 64-bit servers and desktop PCs, whereas its chief competitor, Intel, used a new architecture for its 64-bit server chip, the Itanium.

In the future, AMD will also use the x86 architecture in chips for smaller handheld devices, Ruiz said in a separate interview Wednesday.

Ruiz touted what he said are Opteron's primary advantages over competitors. For example, while Opteron-based machines can operate in 64-bit mode, which helps boost performance by allowing a server to use more memory, they are also still compatible with 32-bit software, he said. Many operating systems have made the jump to working with 64-bit computers, but most application software has not yet been converted. With Opteron-based servers, a 64-bit operating system can be used, and 32-bit applications will still work. That can help companies avoiding the hidden cost of needing to immediately upgrade that software, he said.

Today the server, tomorrow the world
But servers aren't the only direction AMD's new chips are headed in. Next week, the PC maker will unveil its Athlon64, a desktop and notebook processor that is similar in operation to the Opteron chip.

Ruiz highlighted a minute handheld device from start-up Tiqit. Using an AMD processor, the handheld can run a full-size copy of Microsoft's Windows XP operating system. The Tiqit device shows that while computers can range widely in size and performance, they can all run similar x86 processors and software, Ruiz said.

"We see the x86 instruction set as the foundation for powering computing solutions across every level of the enterprise, from servers to desktops to handhelds and every device in-between," Ruiz said.

Keeping with its theme, AMD announced that H&R Block will purchase at least 15,000 and as many as 20,000 Hewlett-Packard Compaq d325 Business Desktop PC, which contains the chipmaker's Athlon XP processor. The Santa Clara, Calif.-based chipmaker said H&R Block chose the HP d325 because it was easier to manage the way software was updated on the desktop.

"This afternoon, I think it's fair to say you have seen everything you need to know to realize that we can be a reliable supplier of critical technology," Ruiz said. "Now is the time to consider AMD."