AMDs Opteron Pays Off

Opinion: AMD makes strides toward broader penetration into more of the major computer OEM terrain that has been historically Intel's turf.

In an editorial just over a year ago, we voiced support for Advanced Micro Devices antitrust case against Intel out of concern that the anti-competitive tactics that AMD alleges Intel has employed have resulted in fewer choices, higher prices and less innovation for IT consumers.

Were pleased to see that, apart from any far-off actions that the courts may take, the competitive balance in the processor market is beginning to shift toward a state in which companies can expect more options in the hardware they purchase.

/zimages/5/28571.gifClick here to read about AMDs updated version of its Opteron chip.

In recent weeks, weve noted with interest the strides that AMD has been making toward broader penetration into more of the major computer OEM terrain that has been historically Intels turf.

IBM has expanded usage of AMDs Opteron processors beyond the single eServer model it had been selling—a system with which weve had good testing experiences in our Labs—to include five new server models, and Lenovo is launching AMD-powered desktop systems. Even Intel stalwart Dell is shipping AMD chips in servers, and the company recently announced plans to market AMD-powered notebooks as well.

Meanwhile, Sun Microsystems has continued to put out new and more powerful Opteron workstations and servers and already looks to be giving its own SPARC systems a better run for their money than perhaps the company had intended.

As the market finds more balance, were looking forward to seeing what fruit a more competitive landscape will yield. In particular, were interested in seeing to what extent AMD makes good on the system-on-a-chip talk thats accompanying its pending purchase of graphics chip maker ATI Technologies, as well as how capable a steward AMD will prove to be of the ATI brand and technologies.

AMD bet well back when it pursued the developer and customer-conscious 64-bit migration strategy of extending the ubiquitous x86 instruction set—a path that Intel, after some lost momentum, eventually followed as well with its EM64T (Extended Memory 64 Technology).

AMDs bet, and the timeliness with which the company placed it, has paid off well in the form of the Opteron and has helped boost AMDs profile considerably.

As AMD begins its stewardship of ATI, it would do well to note the smart developer and customer-friendly strategy that Intel (a lower-profile graphics player) has recently embraced—that of releasing the drivers for its three-dimensional graphics chip sets as open-source software.

Of course, AMD must continue betting well to keep moving in the right direction. Intel is still the big power in the processor world, with a significantly larger market share, and theres no AMD initiative for which Intel doesnt have some equivalent strategy cooking.

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eWeeks Editorial Board consists of Jason Brooks, Larry Dignan, Stan Gibson, Scot Petersen and Lisa Vaas.

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