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AMD launches cavalcade of mobile chips

Advanced Micro Devices is set to introduce 12 new processors for notebooks at the CeBit trade show, as part of an effort to ride the wireless wave.

Advanced Micro Devices will debut 12 notebook processors on Wednesday at the CeBit trade show, as part of its effort to ride the wireless wave.

The new notebook chips, which will be sold under the Athlon XP-M brand, include three based on the recently released "Barton" processor for performance desktops, and five energy-efficient models for so-called "thin and light" notebooks that use a maximum of 25 watts of energy, according to the company. Energy efficiency will help PC makers add wireless networking.

Wednesday will likely be a day that will live in notebook marketing infamy. On the same day that AMD makes its annoucement at CeBit in Germany, Intel will host a New York event to release the Pentium-M, an energy-efficient chip that lets notebooks run five or more hours on a single battery charge. The company will also come out with Centrino, a chip bundle that includes a Pentium-M and the silicon necessary for wireless communications.

Nearly every major notebook manufacturer will release Pentium-M or Centrino notebooks for the business or corporate market.

Earlier in the week, Transmeta, another maker of notebook chips, unfurled details surrounding its forthcoming TM8000 processor.

The new AMD chips will initially land in the consumer and small business markets, but the Sunnyvale, Calif.-based company has said it will continue to try to push its laptop chips into the corporate market in 2003. AMD currently commands 19 percent of the market for desktop and notebook chips.

The Athlon XP-M family breaks down into three segments: high performance based around the Barton processor; middle-of-the-road based on the standard Athlon XP chip; and low-power, which relies on a standard Athlon XP chip that uses less electricity.

The Barton chips will be sold with model numbers of 2200+, 2400+ and 2500+. (The performance number is roughly equivalent to the clock speed of Intel's Pentium 4. A 2500+ would thus exhibit the same sort of performance as a 2.5GHz Pentium 4.) Hewlett-Packard will likely come out with a notebook using the Barton chip sometime in the first half, AMD said.

Barton chips differ from other Athlon XP and Athlon XP-M chips primarily in that they have a larger cache, or an on-chip reservoir of memory for rapid data access.

The energy-efficient chips will provide less performance, but they will let notebooks run longer on a battery charge. These chips will initially come out with model numbers ranging from 1400+ to 1800+. Fujitsu is expected to release a notebook in the United States using these chips. Asian manufacturers such as Tsing Hua Unisplendor will subsequently introduce notebooks using the chip into China and other regional markets.

AMD is also working on a chip that consumes even less power, relying on a maximum of 16 watts, according to a representative, but it isn't ready yet.

Meanwhile, the chips in the middle group will come with model numbers ranging from 2000+ to 2600+, which indicates that the top chip in this group will actually outperform the Barton mobile chips.

In September, AMD will come out with the oft-delayed Athlon64 for mobile computers.