AMD Launches Athlon Duo

Company aims dual processors, chip set at enterprise systems market, but big vendors balk

Advanced Micro Devices Inc. has embarked on the high-performance world of multiprocessing systems with the launch of its first dual-processor Athlon systems and the related AMD-760 MP chip set.

While the Sunnyvale, Calif., chip maker has proved a strong competitor to giant Intel Corp. in the consumer PC market, AMD has yet to break its much larger rivals near-monopolistic hold on the commercial PC and low-end server market.

AMDs introduction two years ago of its Athlon processor proved a turning point for the company, enabling it to compete head-to-head in performance against Intels top-performing Pentium chips. But until last week, AMD lacked a dual-processor design for its flagship chip, putting it at a disadvantage in the commercial workstation and low-end server markets, where dual-chip designs are commonplace.

AMD has finally addressed that shortcoming with its release of 1GHz and 1.2GHz Athlon MP chips designed for use with the new AMD-760 MP chip set.

Although more than 20 manufacturers have already signed on to sell AMDs dual-processor systems, the worlds biggest computer makers withheld their support, including Compaq Computer Corp., Dell Computer Corp., Hewlett-Packard Co., IBM and Gateway Inc.

While AMD has had to overcome initial resistance from major computer makers to get its processors featured in consumer PCs, this time it faces more of an uphill battle, said an analyst. "Its definitely a harder fight," said Kevin Krewell, of MicroDesign Resources, also in Sunnyvale. "When AMD cracked the consumer market, it did so by offering a competitive product at a low price point Intel didnt offer. But today, theres hardly any price point that Intel doesnt offer."

In addition, AMDs success in consumer PCs wont eliminate the skepticism major computer makers have about integrating the companys chips into enterprise systems.

"What AMD has to do is pony up with some significant money to promote this stuff," Krewell said. "For example, they need to ship out a bunch of free units to end customers and hopefully build some demand that way."

Intel is employing a similar strategy to gain support for its new 64-bit Itanium processor, having deployed more than 7,000 pilot systems to users before the chip was officially launched last week.