AMD Details its Processor Roadmap

At its annual analyst confab, AMD officials offered a fresh look at its processor roadmap and confirmed that its next-generation K9 processor will ship late in 2005.

Advanced Micro Devices Inc. Thursday added a slew of new processor code names to its road map, timed to coincide with a meeting with Wall Street analysts. AMD executives also confirmed that its next-generation K9 processor will ship late in 2005.

At its biannual analyst meeting at its Sunnyvale, Calif. headquarters, AMD officials outlined the progress the company made in its plan to return to profitability by the fourth calendar quarter, traditionally the industrys strongest.

/zimages/5/28571.gifClick here for more information on AMDs recent financial reporting.

During the session, AMD offered analysts a glimpse at its current product roadmap, extending its processor lines through 2005.

In May, AMD indicated that it planned only three new processors for 2004: "Athens," a 64-bit Opteron chip designed for servers and workstations; "San Diego," a version designed for the desktop; and "Odessa," a version for laptops.

Now, AMD has added an additional six processors for 2004. The company has also extended its public roadmap out through the end of 2005, disclosing an additional six new chips slated for that year alone.

AMDs offerings for the first half of 2004 will include the introductions of two microprocessors. According to the roadmap, AMD has delayed the launch of the mobile version of the Athlon 64, and now expects to ship a 130nm mobile version of the Athlon 64 in the first half of 2004, and not late this year as originally planned. Odessa will ship in the second half of 2004, using a 90nm process, the roadmap indicates.

AMDs flagship Athlon 64 will receive an update early in the first quarter of 2004, dubbed Newcastle. Outwardly, the chip will use the same 130nm production line and processes of the current Athlon 64. According to AMD officials, however, the die will be small, approximately 150 sq. mm.

Newcastle will be a new processor optimized for the desktop platform, an AMD spokeswoman said. She declined to comment further.

Newcastle will include a dual-channel DDR-400 memory controller, according to Kevin Krewell, an analyst for In-Stat/MDR. Newcastle will also contain a smaller amount of on-chip cache, he said, which usually leads to lower performance. On the other hand, the chips smaller die size will make it cheaper to manufacture.

When AMD introduced its first 64-bit Athlon 64 and AthlonFX processors in September, AMD executives positioned the chips as substantially-faster versions of the existing 32-bit Athlon XP, which currently provide the bulk of the companys sales. Moving forward, however, the company has placed the majority of its development resources in the hands of the team working on server microprocessors.

"In the server space AMD64 has a clear value in servers," said Dirk Meyer, senior vice president of AMDs Computation Products Group. "We cant be as important to our customers as we want to be without a strong competitive server offering."

Meanwhile, the roadmap also indicates that AMD has delayed a shift to manufacturing its chips with 90nm processes that use silicon-on-insulator (SOI) technology. The move will wait until the second half of 2004.

This transition will be important to the company, as the finer process technologies usually equate to cheaper, faster chips. Intel, for example, has already announced its transition to 90nm process will begin to take place in November and December, which represents Intels own delay of a few months.

According to Krewell, if AMD can meet its own timetable and break the 90nm tape only six months behind Intel, that shows the company is making progress. "It looked a lot worse earlier," he said.

AMD has a development partnership with IBM to develop 65nm products, although production of parts based on that technology wont begin until at least the end of 2005, and most likely 2006, Krewell added.