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AMD focuses on 'x86 Everywhere'

CEO Ruiz says he's pleased with the company's "irreversible progress" as it recommits to 64-bit chips.

With some wind in its sails thanks to the popularity of its Opteron and Athlon microprocessors, Advanced Micro Devices is committed more than ever to the future of the x86 computer chip platform, CEO Hector Ruiz said.

AMD won't make big changes to x86, "but we will keep adding to it," Ruiz said during a briefing of financial analysts in New York on Friday. "Because we have been working with the architecture, it allows us to clean it up and improve on it."

Flanked by his top executives, Ruiz said AMD is focused on bringing more of its high-performance and four-way server chips into the mainstream--and looking for markets beyond the PC.

AMD also plans to release a new microprocessor core for workstations and desktops in 2007, add support for next-generation computer memory, or DDR3, and make improvements to the security and virtualization software that allows a PC to be managed remotely.

AMD is trying to grab the attention of customers and investors even as Intel strengthens its grip on the computer industry. Intel made headlines this week when Apple Computer announced it would begin to phase Intel processors into its computers over the next two years.

Despite Intel's dominance, AMD has managed to scratch out market gains in recent years. The company said it has seen a 300 percent increase in the number of servers sold with its Opteron processors since it started shipping them two years ago.

AMD executives also boasted that 55 percent of the world's biggest 500 companies are now using products based on its offerings. In fact, AMD's share of x86, four-way servers, which use four processors, is now 27 percent, up 15 percentage points from a year ago, according to research firm IDC.

AMD is pinning its hopes on dual-core technology, which places two computer processors on one piece of silicon, and on production at a new plant in Dresden, Germany, which can take chip features down to 65 nanometers, about 1/1,500 of the width of a human hair. The plant should be up and running next year. Intel and AMD have both said they expect the transition of their entire product lines to dual-core architectures to wrap up around 2007.

One of the facility's first tasks will be to produce semiconductors using "immersion" lithography in 65-nanometer manufacturing. This involves drawing the circuits on chips with a laser while the wafer is immersed in purified water. The water refracts light, permitting the laser to draw finer circuits.

AMD said the transition to 65-nanometer production should be quick since it signed a manufacturing and technology-sharing agreement with Chartered Semiconductor, a contract semiconductor manufacturing company in Singapore. Chartered will produce Athlon 64 and Opteron chips starting next year to help AMD meet expected demand.

Beyond Opteron and Athlon, AMD is also beefing up low-cost Sempron chips with 64-bit capabilities, which increases the amount of requests a processor can handle. The company is also expanding the number of computer makers that use its Turion processors for mobile computing devices and modifying its Geode family with new low-power capabilities for non-PC designs such as gaming systems and computers in cars.