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Micron Electronics turns to Athlon chip for corporate PCs

The company becomes the first well-known North American manufacturer to offer the Advanced Micro Devices chip on desktops built for the corporate market.

Micron Electronics on Tuesday announced plans to add Advanced Micro Devices' Athlon chip to a line of business PCs.

Many PC makers offer AMD's low-cost Athlon chip in consumer lines, but Micron Electronics is the first well-known North American manufacturer to offer the Athlon on desktops built for the corporate market. The Idaho-based direct PC seller said it will ship Athlon chips in future ClientPro PCs, a line aimed at government customers and small to medium-sized businesses.

That is not to say Micron is abandoning Intel. The company said the Athlon PCs will be sold alongside systems based on Intel's Pentium III processor.

"We're starting to see the beginnings of demand from our customer base wanting to see a choice" of processor brands, Micron spokesman Paul Desmond said.

Company executives were tight-lipped about details, such as the availability and configuration of the new AMD-based PCs. However, it is likely Micron will offer Athlon chips with the new AMD 760 chipset and double-data rate synchronous dynamic RAM, or SDRAM.

The Micron announcement is a significant step in AMD's effort to win acceptance in the corporate arena. It has been moving in that direction for some time, said Roger Kay, an analyst with market researcher IDC.

"It's time for this to happen," Kay said. "There's no particular reason AMD hasn't taken off in the corporate market. The insistence on Intel Inside is irrational, it seems to me."

Corporate IT managers are typically reluctant to change their hardware-buying habits. However, those habits may be changing.

The question, Kay said, is "whether Micron can become a vehicle to help AMD establish itself on the business side."

"The big vendors are not going to make their moves based on what's happening at Micron," he said. But, he added, if Athlon-based corporate PCs seem to be taking off, other manufacturers will notice. The rest of the industry may view Micron's announcement as a trial balloon.

"Micron can take the risks, and if (Athlon for corporate) takes off, they can cash in, too," Kay said.

Micron uses AMD's Athlon and Duron chips and Intel's Pentium III and Pentium 4 chips in its Millennia line of consumer PCs.