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The market of ultra low-cost personal computers (ULCPCs) is on the rise these days as many PC vendors are looking forward to add appropriate products into the lineup. Nonetheless, Advanced Micro Devices, the world’s No. 2 maker of x86 central processing units (CPUs), is not particularly enthusiastic about such systems despite of the fact that it does have a processor to address the segment.

Answering a question about AMD’s response to Intel Corp.’s Atom processor, the new chief executive officer of the company, Dirk Meyer, said that AMD was looking forward the market, but would discuss actual products only in November, 2008. The chipmaker cited the fact that it was a much smaller company compared to Intel and could not offer a competing device shortly after the rival’s product launch.

“The first thing to point out is we are a much smaller company, not nearly to scale that our competitor has so clearly we don’t intend to do absolutely everything they do in the marketplace. […] Clearly, when you talk about smaller form factor notebooks and inexpensive notebooks, which is a market segment we are interested in. It is actually a segment that we are starting to offer products to our customers in support of now. We actually haven’t talked in public about that, but I expect we will be talking about it and doing the math1 when we get together in November at our analyst conference,” said Dirk Meyer, chief exec at AMD.

Late in June ’08 X-bit labs published details about the first K8-class microprocessors and platforms by AMD aimed at ULCPCs and embedded markets. Based on the information, AMD’s platforms for very affordable systems should be competitive against Intel’s Atom based on performance and power consumption.

According to data not confirmed officially, the new AMD processor for ULCPCs will sport 64-bit K8 micro-architecture-based processing core, 64KB L1 instruction cache, 64KB L1 data cache, 256KB L2 cache as well as single-channel DDR2 memory controller. The central processing unit is projected to operate at 1.0GHz and will be made using 65nm process technoloy. AMD plans to ship the product in ball grid array packaging, which is ideal for low-cost, low-power and small form-factor systems.

The low-cost AMD64 BGA microprocessors from AMD will have thermal design power of 8W, whereas the AMD M690E + SB600 chipset will have thermal design power of 8W + 2W~3W. Therefore, the whole system will have thermal design power of just about 20W, which is quite similar to a combination of Intel Atom N-series processor (2.5 – 4W TDP) and Intel 945GC chipset (15.2W – 22.2W).

It is known that AMD is working with producers of embedded systems to create devices based on the low-cost AMD64 BGA chip, however, it is unclear whether it is working with notebook makers too. According to chief marketing officer of AMD, the company is currently evaluating the market and no final decision has been made.

“We are not saying it’s not an important segment and we’re not saying it’s not a growing segment. What we are saying is that we are a smaller company and we have to focus on what we do well at this point. We are watching that segment rather than playing in it, but as it matures we’ll see where it goes. At this moment, we are going to focus on what we do best,” said Nigel Dessau, chief marketing officer at AMD in an interview with eWeek web-site.


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