AMD Delays Clawhammer Release

AMD's much-anticipated first 64-bit chip now due early next year; its next-generation Athlon XP also delayed.

Advanced Micro Devices Inc. has pushed back the release of two processors, including its much-anticipated first 64-bit chip, code-named Clawhammer, from the fourth quarter of this year to early 2003.

"We plan to start shipping the Clawhammer during the first quarter, and it should be available in systems by late in the quarter or the early part of the second quarter," AMD spokesman Ward Tisdale said.

Clawhammer will be targeted for use in desktop PCs and workstations.

The chip maker also has delayed the launch of its next-generation Athlon XP processor, code-named Barton, to the first quarter of next year. AMD also said Barton will feature a faster 333MHz front-side bus than the 266MHz the company had originally announced. The desktop processor, which will feature 512KB of on-die memory, twice that of current Athlon XPs, is targeted to compete against Intel Corp.s Pentium 4 line.

The Sunnyvale, Calif., company didnt disclose its reasons for the delays.

AMD is counting on its new line of 64-bit processors to boost its share of the enterprise market, currently dominated by chips from longtime rival Intel. Clawhammer and a new 64-bit server chip, to be called Opteron, will be positioned to compete against Intels 64-bit Itanium processor in high-end workstations and midrange servers.

Opterons release, set for the first half of 2003, remains on track, according to the company.

Servers powered by 64-bit chips are valued by companies for their ability to address vast amounts of memory and process large amounts of data simultaneously.

Currently, the 64-bit market is dominated by Sun Microsystems Inc., Hewlett-Packard Co. and IBM, with the bulk of those servers featuring proprietary chips unique to each computer maker.

However, the competitive landscape was altered last year when Intel released Itanium, its first-ever 64-bit chip. HP, of Palo Alto, Calif., which co-developed the processor, plans to adopt Itanium across its product lines while phasing out production of its own PA-RISC and Alpha 64-bit processors. IBM, of Armonk, N.Y., is also offering Itanium-based systems, but says it will continue to offer servers based on its own 64-bit Power 4 processors as well.

AMD has yet to announce a design win for its 64-bit architecture, code-named Hammer. But the chip maker is optimistic its processors backward compatibility with 32-bit applications will appeal to businesses looking to migrate to 64-bit processing who still want to leverage their existing application. By contrast, Itanium offers limited 32-bit compatibility.

While its unknown whether AMD delayed Clawhammers release because of problems with the chip, the move nevertheless will have a negative impact.

"When youre late, youre late, and it really erodes your competitive advantage," said analyst Nathan Brookwood, of Insight 64, in Saratoga, Calif. "While AMD waits to enter the market, the other guys are continuing to develop and release faster chips, so whatever advantage you may have once had, its inevitably reduced when you push back the launch date."

However, delays in releasing 64-bit processors are quite common. For example, Intels Itanium was originally slated for release in 1999, but didnt arrive until 2001, and Suns UltraSparc III missed its targeted launch date by more than a year.