AMDs Dual-Core Strategy: A Change-Up?

The chip maker says its Athlon FX will continue to be the centerpiece of its desktop product line.

For all of the fanfare surrounding dual-core processors, Advanced Micro Devices Inc. executives said its new chips wont be the crème de la crème of its desktop product line.

Instead, that honor will be given to the existing Athlon FX, expected to still command the lofty premiums AMD currently charges. The disclosures came Wednesday as AMD said it had begun shipping production samples of dual-core Athlon 64s to OEMs in anticipation of a formal launch later this year.

AMD executives also reiterated that the new chips will use the same 939-pin infrastructure and cooling solutions as the current Athlon 64 chips, meaning that "most" customers will be able to replace their single-core chip for a dual-core processor with nothing more than a BIOS upgrade for their motherboard. AMD demonstrated the chips to analysts Wednesday at its Sunnyvale, Calif.-based headquarters.

However, AMD executives did not comment on the expected speed of the new parts, a critical question that will help determine the validity of the companys strategy. One analyst said he expects the dual-core Athlon 64s to be little more than a token offering, shipped to appease customers and shareholders who will be comparing it against Intels higher-profile dual-core Smithfield chip, also due for introduction later this year.

Company executives also declined to discuss details of the dual-core chips brand name, strategy, or expected pricing. That left one Wall Street analyst who asked not to be named believing that the disclosure was simply a bit of preemptive public relations in advance of the Intel Developer Forum in San Francisco next week, where more details of Intels dual-core strategy will be revealed.

AMDs new dual-core chips will coexist alongside the single-core Athlon 64, Athlon FX, and Sempron lines, creating a four-tier processor menu for customers to select from, according to Teresa deOnis, a brand manager for AMDs desktop products.

"The idea here is to position the dual core in those segments which will see the most immediate need for multithreading: content creation and digital media usage," deOnis said.

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