AMD Puts 64 Bits on Desktop

Athlon chip breaks ground for gamers.

Advanced Micro Devices Inc. has laid down the second half of its bet on 64-bit computing with the release of its newest Athlon chips.

The Sunnyvale, Calif., company at an event in San Francisco last week unveiled its much-touted Athlon 64 and mobile Athlon 64 chips for PCs and notebooks. They feature the same capabilities as AMDs Opteron counterpart for servers and workstations, in particular the ability to run 32-bit and 64-bit applications equally well.

In addition, AMD launched the Athlon 64 FX-51, a chip running at 2.2GHz that includes a 128-bit dual- channel memory controller for maximum bandwidth and 1MB of Level 2 cache.

All the chips include AMDs HyperTransport technology for faster data transfer within the PCs, as well as its CoolnQuiet features for reducing power and fan speed via on-demand frequency and voltage switching. The technology is designed to allow for cooler-running systems and noise reduction.

AMD officials said they are getting wide support from ISVs for the new chips. Microsoft Corp., for instance, at the event announced availability of the beta version of a native 64-bit version of its Windows XP operating system. It is designed to support 64-bit Extended Systems, including platforms based on AMD 64-bit technology.

AMD officials said they expect mainstream demand for 64-bit desktop computing to take off with Microsofts release of "Longhorn," the next version of Windows. But they said demand among high-end gamers and PC enthusiasts is already developing.

Another big ISV, Sun Microsystems Inc., of Palo Alto, Calif., said its new client-side solution, Java Desktop System, will support the Athlon 64. Java Desktop System is Suns alternative to Windows. The package, designed for x86 systems and available next quarter, will offer a full desktop environment, including the StarOffice 7 productivity suite, Java 2 Standard Edition, the Mozilla browser and an integrated Linux operating system. It also includes e-mail and instant messaging and is interoperable with Linux, Windows and Solaris.

John Fowler, chief technology officer for software at Sun, said he expects immediate demand for 64-bit desktop computing from software developers and users of multimedia applications.

However, some enterprise desktop users say their need for 64-bit computing is a ways down the road. Terry Claypool, IS operations manager for The State Journal-Register, a newspaper in Springfield, Ill., said he understands why there is demand among high-end gaming enthusiasts, but for his companys needs, 32-bit computing works well.

"Its not like it used to be," said Claypool, whose company runs Windows XP primarily on systems from MPC Computers LLC. "Wed click a button and then go for a cup of coffee. Now, for what were using, 32-bit is fine."