Could HP's AMD laptop sway Dell?

If ever there were a case for Dell to do a Texas two-step to AMD, analyst says, the Compaq nx6125 might just be it.

Michael Singer Staff Writer, CNET News.com
Michael Singer
3 min read
A correction was made to this story. Read below for details.
The up-to-now immovable object of Intel chips in Dell computers may have met an irresistible force in a new laptop from each company's closest rival, an analyst says.

This week Hewlett-Packard and Advanced Micro Devices began taking orders for their joint effort, the Compaq nx6125 notebook, and as soon as they did, analysts began talking about a potential shift in the balance of power in the PC world.

"This is a huge win for AMD," said Sam Bhavnani, a senior analyst with Current Analysis. "This will impact mostly small-business purchases. The large enterprises will not shift from Intel to AMD in the near term. However, any small or medium-sized business that is in a replacement cycle now has to consider the Turion 64 HP option."

So, if nx6125 notebooks start selling like hotcakes, will that finally persuade Dell it needs to sell AMD-infused products along with its Intel-based lineup, despite its history of offering only Intel inside? Bhavnani seems enthusiastic.

"It will make it a viable concern for Dell if HP begins to make money off of this new Compaq," Bhavnani said. "Dell is all about the numbers, and if they are looking at AMD, their main question will be, will AMD give us the volumes that we require?"

The analyst also notes that if Dell were to take on a Turion processor, it would more than likely be for its consumer Inspiron laptops, rather than its business-focused Latitude products.

A Dell representative declined to comment on the possibility of the company straying from its Intel heritage.

HP has been under growing pressure during the last year, as Gateway has re-entered the market and Dell continues to drop its PC prices, says Current Analysis researcher Nicole D'Onofrio.

The nx6125 marks the first time HP has offered a business-class computer with AMD's Turion processor. The chip was specifically designed for laptops that can run current 32-bit instruction programs, as well as the next generation of 64-bit instruction software.

The new Compaq is also significant for HP in that it is the first time the company has produced a sub-$1,000 notebook with a built-in biometric fingerprint sensor and an optional smart card reader.

The other motivation for Dell to adopt AMD's Turion, Bhavnani surmises, is that customers who purchase a notebook based on the AMD Turion 64 processor, like HP's, will not have to buy a new computer when Longhorn, Microsoft's next version of Windows, ships.

"Otherwise, they will have to wait for Intel to come out with their 64-bit Pentium M products," Bhavnani said.

An Intel representative said the chipmaking giant has no near-term plans to release a 64-bit Pentium M. Executives have said they will have their product ready about the same time as the Longhorn release next year. Still, the company remains firm that it would only make the switch when the ecosystem exists to support it and there is high customer demand for such a chip.

"Right now we're putting our resources into the things customers tell us they care about: mobile performance, battery life, wireless connectivity and form factor," the representative said.

Correction: This story misrepresented Intel's assessment of the market for 64-bit chips for notebooks. The company says it would only make the switch to a 64-bit Pentium M when the ecosystem exists to support it and there is high customer demand for such a chip.