AMD wields its Hammer

The company lets the semiconductor out of the bag with its first public demonstration of the chip, which it hopes will nail Intel in the desktop and server markets.

Michael Kanellos
Michael Kanellos Staff Writer, CNET News.com
Michael Kanellos is editor at large at CNET News.com, where he covers hardware, research and development, start-ups and the tech industry overseas.
Advanced Micro Devices provided the first public demonstration of its forthcoming Hammer chip Tuesday. The company hopes to use the chip to challenge Intel on desktops and in servers.

At meetings in San Francisco, the Sunnyvale, Calif.-based company showed off Hammer-based computers running a 64-bit version of Linux as well as Microsoft Windows.

The Hammer family of processors will differ from other AMD chips--and other Intel processors--in that they will be able to run conventional 32-bit applications found on Windows PCs today as well as 64-bit applications. The bit numbers refer to the amount of data the processor can digest at once.

In general, 64-bit computers are more powerful than their 32-bit counterparts, but few 64-bit applications exist in the Windows world. AMD's strategy with the chip is to capture customers who plan to transition to 64-bit applications over time.

"Beyond performance, 'Hammer' will give users a smooth migration path to the 64-bit software of tomorrow, all the while preserving the billions of dollars of today's 32-bit software applications," Ed Ellett, AMD's vice president of marketing in the computational products group, said in a statement.

Intel's Itanium processors handle 64-bit chips, but the Pentium family handles 32-bit applications. Sources have said that the company has a hybrid version, code-named Yamhill, in its labs.

The first Hammer chips, code-named Clawhammer, will hit the market toward the end of the year and will be found in desktops. Server versions will follow in 2003.