Advanced Micro Devices Inc. today confirmed that Microsoft Corp. will co-develop a Windows operating system to run on the chipmakers upcoming 64-bit processors for workstations and servers, which will be sold under the brand name Opteron.
The agreement, long sought by AMD, provides the chipmaker a much-needed boost at a most opportune time. AMD plans to launch its newest architecture late this year to enterprise customers that have largely spurned its products in the past.
AMD is optimistic that its 64-bit design, known by the codename Hammer, will finally break Intel Corp.s hold on the corporate market by offering customers a distinctly different, yet familiar, chip.
In general, AMDs 64-bit design is based on the same x86 architecture at the core of todays popular PC processors, such as Pentium 4 and Athlon. As a result, AMDs 64-bit chips will be capable of running all existing 32-bit Windows-based applications as well as emerging 64-bit versions.
By contrast, Intels Itanium, released last year after seven years of development costing an estimated $1 billion, features a unique architecture that is largely incompatible with existing Windows applications. While Microsoft has introduced an operating system to support Itanium, other business applications must be recompiled to work effectively with the chip.
Itaniums weak sales since its release last May has raised concerns among Intel and industry insiders that enterprise users find the chip too far a leap, and may instead prefer a solution more closely resembling AMDs Hammer.
Such worries allegedly spurred Intel to covertly develop an alternative 64-bit architecture, known as Yamhill, thats based on the x86, according to unnamed sources quoted in a San Jose Mercury News report earlier this year.
During a conference call from New York, where AMD will hold its semiannual analyst briefing Thursday, Dirk Meyer, vice president of AMDs Computation Products Group, hailed the companys agreement with Microsoft as assuring broader appeal of the chipmakers new product.
"The best advances in technology happen when the hardware and software are in sync," Meyer said. "The union of AMDs 8th generation processor technology and a Microsoft Windows operating system built to support that technology lays the groundwork for borader industry adoption of 64-bit computing platforms."
No Microsoft representatives were present during the conference call, but the software maker did release a statement confirming its support for Hammer.
"AMDs 8th-generation architecture gives customers great 32-bit performance and 64-bit capabilities on a single system," said Dave Cutler, senior distinguished engineer for Microsofts Windows team. "Together, AMDs 8th-generation processors and Windows should provide customers a flexible platform and a compelling value proposition.
AMD will ultimately introduce two versions of the chip. The first chip to hit the market will be a desktop product, codenamed Clawhammer, set for release late this year, which will be marketed under the Athlon brand. In the first half of 2003, AMD will release a multiprocessor version of the chip, codenamed Sledgehammer, that will be marketed in workstations and servers under the Opteron brand name.
Opteron "means, simply, the best," said Ed Ellett, vice president of marketing for AMDs Computation Products Group.