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AMD does hat trick with new chips

The firm releases a trio of K6-2 chips and says its first focused products for notebooks will come out in the first quarter.

LAS VEGAS--Advanced Micro Devices released a trio of K6-2 microprocessors today and said its first focused products for notebooks, the K6-3, will come out in the first quarter of next year.

The three new K6-2 processors, which run at 366, 380, and 400 MHz, serve to reduce the speed gap between AMD processors and processors from rival Intel, which now tap out at 450 MHz. Historically, a larger speed gap has existed.

"This gets us to within one clock speed of Intel," said David Somo, director of product marketing for the computational products group. A 450-MHz processor will then roll out in the first quarter of next year, around the time Intel comes out with its 500-MHz chip.

While faster processors are always popular with customers, closing the gap could also well help AMD land design deals with the major direct computer marketers--the only segment that AMD has yet to penetrate. "They tend to sell more performance PCs, and we haven't had the product until recently," he said.

The company is also trying to work with computer makers to ensure that one AMD-based computer won't completely ape ones made by another manufacturer, Somo said. The chips, for instance, all run on different system buses. The 400-MHz chip runs on a 100-MHz system bus while the 380-MHz processor comes with a 95-MHz bus. The 366-MHz comes with the older, slower 66-MHz bus.

Compaq Computer announced a new home PC based around the 400-MHz chip today while Hewlett-Packard is using the 366-MHz version in one of its Pavilion PCs.

AMD, meanwhile, will keep up its pressure next year with the release of the K6-3 and the next-generation K7 processors.

The K6-3 will be positioned as AMD's first chip specifically designed for the notebook market, said Rob Herb, senior vice president and chief marketing executive. The chip will run at 450 MHz and higher, as well as come with 256KB of integrated cache memory, or twice the memory that Intel currently puts on its Celeron chips.

The chip will come out on the 0.25-micron manufacturing process and then shift to the more advanced 0.18-micron process in the second half of the year. The shift will result in smaller but more powerful chips.

AMD sells low-voltage versions of the K6-2 for notebooks, but this is the company's "first focused mobile offering," Herb said. The K6-3 will also use the faster 100-MHz system bus. The fact that the chip will be used in notebooks will also mean that it will likely act as a way to bring AMD processors into commercial systems, he said.

Intel, for its part, is not taking the notebook challenge lightly. In the first half, Herb and others said it will release "Dixon"--a version of the Pentium II with integrated cache memory. Intel has also promised to release 600-MHz versions of the coming "Coppermine" chip for notebooks in the second half of next year.

The company will then follow up with the K7, which will run at 500 MHz and also contain integrated cache memory. The chip will be aimed at high-performance desktops, he said.

The 400-MHz K6-2 sells for $283 in volume while the 380-MHz and 366-MHz processors sell for $213 and $187, respectively. Typically, however, AMD chips sell for less than the posted price.