Advanced Micro Devices is taking another shot at the commercial desktop market.
The company plans to officially unveil its new desktop platform, formally code-named Perseus, which will include single, dual-, tri- and quad-core microprocessors, a new chip set called the 780V, and optional ATI Radeon discrete graphics.
AMD has lined up several of the top desktop vendors to offer new or refreshed systems with the new platform. Hewlett-Packard will offer two new corporate desktops, the Compaq dc5850 and the dx2450, while Dell will refresh its OptiPlex 740 with AMD processors and an Nvidia chip set. Fujitsu-Siemens, Acer and Lenovo are expected to offer new desktops that use the platform as well.
The platform represents one of the main reasons why AMD acquired, and then went into debt to pay for, ATIin 2006. In order to compete against Intel in the commercial client market, the company needed to present a complete platform of processors and chip sets while offering product stability.
When the new platform launches, AMD will offer 24 months of stability for its processors and 18 months of stability for the chip sets. Hal Speed, a marketing architect with AMD, said he expects the company to introduce new processors with different clock speeds every six months to offer additional choices. AMD will follow with a new platform in 2009 code-named Kodiak.
For years, AMD offered this type of stability for its server products, and the company said it believes it must offer those same guarantees to enter into the commercial client market against Intel.
“We have been doing this on the enterprise server side so that we have had predictable road maps and really timely notifications to customers about any silicon revisions when it comes to Opteron, and we are now doing that with the desktop side,” said Teresa de Onis, a desktop marketing manager with AMD. “[P]roviding our OEMs partners with this stability is a key requirement to be successful in the commercial space …We really have to manage the life cycle of the platform.”
In addition to AMD platform and product stability, Speed said he believes that the use of the triple-core Phenom X3 processor will help differentiate the company’s offering from Intel because the chip has more processing power than a standard dual-core but costs less than a quad-core chip.
The triple core is also a way to appeal to users who deal with multithreaded software.
Kirk Godkin, manager for business desktops at HP, said customers are beginning to see the benefits of using multicore processors instead of just relying on clock speed to judge performance. The dx2450, which is geared toward smaller businesses, and the dc5850, an enterprise-class machine, will offer tri-core Phenom options.
“The triple-core chip has a great usage model today and also moving forward when you think about customers that not only want to multitask but also the amount of multithreaded applications that are rolling out in the market place,” Godkin said. “When you have programs like Firefox or [Microsoft] Visual Studio or Vista that really take advantage of multithreading, those customers that use those programs are really going to enjoy what the Phenom processors can do.”
Mobility, Graphics and Security
With the new platform, the company is hoping to appeal primarily to small and midsize businesses, but Speed said AMD also plans to target a number of verticals such as education and government as well as the overall enterprise market.
This shift to a desktop focus comes at a time when reports from IDC, Gartner and other research firms say business buyers are moving toward more laptops and other mobile computing devices.
However, there remains a large market for commercial desktops, and AMD is looking for a way to balance out its consumer offerings, which are subject to ever-changing spending habits, with the stability that comes with the commercial client market.
“The commercial desktop space is still an important segment and there’s a still lot of business there,” said Roger Kay, an analyst with Endpoint Technologies Associates. “If AMD, given its current market share, can get a point or two out of any market … almost any effort is worth something.”
To start, AMD will offer seven microprocessors with the platform. These include the single-core Athlon 2.7GHz 1640B; four dual-core Athlon X2 chips running at 2.3GHz, 2.6GHz, 2.7GHz and 2.8GHz; a tri-core 2.3GHZ Phenom X3 8600B model; and a Phenom X4 quad-core 9600B running at 2.3GHz. The chips have thermal envelopes ranging from 95 watts for the quad-core model down to 45 watts for the single-core Athlon.
The new platform supports Microsoft’s DirectX 10 API for graphics.
Although AMD is supplying its own chip set and discrete graphics, the processors will work with Nvidia chip sets. AMD is also working with three ODMs (original design manufacturers)-Asustek Computer, MSI Computer and ECS (Elitegroup Computer Systems)-to create motherboards for the white-box desktop market. About half of AMD’s desktop business comes from OEMs and the other half from white-box designers.
The platform also adheres to several security and management standards, including the TCG (Trusted Computing Group)’s standard for security and the Distributed Management Task Force’s new DASH (desktop and mobile architecture for system hardware) standards for management. Speed said he believes these standards will give AMD’s desktop platform an advantage over the AMT (Active Management Technology) features that Intel has developed for its own platform.
Although AMD is releasing its desktop platform April 28, the company also plans to introduce a mobile platform, called “Puma,” later in the second quarter. The platforms will share some of the same management features and technology. Together, these two platforms will form AMD Business Class, which should strengthen the company’s enterprise business as it looks to return to financial stability later in 2008.