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Advanced Micro Devices company has again reconsidered its strategy on the microprocessor front in order to meet the market requirements and successfully compete with Intel’s aggressive introduction of the Pentium 4 processors with the Hyper-Threading technology and 800MHz Quad Pumped Bus. The main idea of the new roadmap is to supply more x86-64 CPUs on the market, though, I do not think it will be so easy for AMD now, as the company experienced difficulties with achieving higher clock-speeds with its x86-64 CPUs.

The Opteron processors are to be introduced in April, but currently there is no information about the core-speeds of the chips. Earlier it was said that the first Opteron MPUs will be clocked at 1.40 and 1.60GHz (see this news-story), but it was also noted that by the second quarter this year the speeds of the first AMD processors for enterprise servers will achieve 1.80 and 2.0GHz mark. It may appear that the 1.40 and 1.60GHz x86-64 Opteron CPUs is just the “evaluation” versions of the chips that are currently supplied to those interested in testing the first x86-64 systems. By the end of the year Opteron processors are likely to achieve 2.40GHz and 2.60GHz speeds. What definitely worth our attention is that according to this Japanese web-site, AMD will start to sell the code-named “Athens” Opteron microprocessors made using 90nm technology in the first quarter of 2004. It fully corresponds with AMD’s official plans to complete the qualification and start production of MPUs using 90nm technology in the fourth quarter of this year.

The information that there are two different versions of AMD Athlon64 processors to come was also confirmed. The powerful Athlon64 CPU with 1MB of L2 cache will appear in the second quarter with model numbers 2800+, 3100+ and 3400+. There is no precise information about their core-speeds and prices, but I would like to mention that the size of x86-64 core with 1MB of L2 cache made using 0.13 micron technology is nearly 200 square millimetres, therefore, do not expect such CPUs to be really cheap. AMD plans to roll-out the 3700+ and 4000+ chips in the third and fourth quarter respectively. The code-named “San Diego” Athlon 64 microprocessor, the successor of the Athlon64 “ClawHammer”, also equipped with 1MB L2, will be unveiled in the Q1 2004, though, it is not likely that AMD will be able to supply it in mass quantities, as it will be made using 90nm technology, while AMD is not really fast with transition to new fabrication processes usually.

For those of you, who want to get an x86-64 system for relatively low price, AMD will launch the code-named “Paris” Athlon 64 processors with 256KB L2 and 3200+ model number in the third quarter. There will be not a lot of versions of these CPUs: in the fourth quarter this year the Sunnyvale, California-based semiconductor company is to launch the 3500+ processor and already in early 2004 AMD will unveil the successor of “Paris” – the Athlon64 “Victoria”, made using 90nm technology.

AMD is not going to forget the Socket A market as well in 2003. This quarter the world will witness the Athlon XP “Barton” processors with 2500+, 2800+ and 3000+ model numbers, while in the second quarter AMD will unveil the final Barton chip with 3200+ rating. The “Thoroughbred” and “Barton” will remain until the end of the year, migrating to the low-end market segment in the second and fourth quarters respectively. Therefore, the powerful Socket A chips with rating numbers from 2000+ to 3200+ are to compete with the higher-end Celerons and lower-end Pentium 4 processors with 400 and 533MHz bus, while the Athlon 64 “Paris” is here to battle with the middle-end Pentium 4 “Northwood” chips with 800MHz Quad Pumped Bus and the Hyper-Threading technology. Since the latter will achieve 3.40GHz this year, the x86-64 CPUs with 3500+ rating number are likely to be a suitable rival for it. The Athlon64 “ClawHammer” chips seem to be targeted on the high-end Pentium 4 “Prescott” processor with 800MHz QPB, Prescott New Instructions and 1MB of L2 cache. Since such processors will also reach the 3.40GHz point by the end of the year, it seems that AMD will have nice positions on the high-end segment with its Athlon64 4000+ MPUs.

As always, only time will reveal the company that will be more successful this year on the high-end market segment. For instance, Intel still may overclock their chips further and further, while AMD has been postponing the x86-64 microprocessors for a couple of quarters already and there are no obvious evidences that the company does not have any problems with these chips at all and will not have in future. But on the other hand, in case AMD can supply enough high-end CPUs this year, their financial state will definitely improve, just as their positions on the market.


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