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Advanced Micro Devices, the world’s second largest maker of central processing units for personal computers, confirmed Tuesday a report about initiating shipments of products manufactured using 90nm silicon-on-insulator process technology.

AMD Ships Products, but Remains Tight-Lipped on Specs

Sunnyvale, California-based AMD said it had shipped low-power 90nm Mobile AMD Athlon 64 processors for thin and light notebooks, previously codenamed “Oakville”, for revenue. Manufacturers are expected to launch systems based on the new 90nm Mobile AMD Athlon 64 processors in the coming months. 90nm AMD Athlon 64 processors for desktop systems are expected to ship later this quarter, followed by 90nm AMD Opteron processor shipments later this year. AMD will release further details of all products in conjunction with official product launches, according to the official statement.

“The transition to 90nm technology has not been an easy one for many suppliers. Even presumptive technology leaders like Intel and IBM have struggled to meet performance and yield targets in their moves from 130nm to 90nm processes. Although AMD has yet to demonstrate its ability to traverse the volume ramp on its 90nm production, today’s announcement bodes well for its transition to this advanced technology. In a sense, AMD’s migration to 90nonometers involved fewer risks than Intel’s or IBM’s, since the move (for AMD) included lithography advances, but few material changes, while others needed to address both lithography and material changes. To be sure, AMD took its lumps with its initial moves to SOI technology in 2002, but with that learning behind it, the move to 90nm SOI technology appears far less traumatic,” said Nathan Brookwood, principal analyst for Insight 64.

AMD declined to reveal specifications of the Mobile AMD Athlon 64 processors produced using 90nm process technology, it also did not name customers to utilize the new products.

So far AMD supplied Mobile Athlon 64 processors at 1.60GHz – 2.20GHz frequency and with 1MB of level-two cache with TDP of 62W as well as Low Power Athlon 64 products with 35W thermal envelope clocked at 1.60GHz – 1.80GHz and equipped with 512KB of L2 cache. AMD said its 90nm mobile products belong to the Low Power line. Mobile Athlon 64 products are compatible with Socket 754 infrastructure.

90nm Shrinks Costs

“The new AMD part is about half the size (84mm2 versus 145mm2) of its 130nm part, which bodes well for manufacturing capacity and yield characteristics. Even more importantly for mobile applications, the new chip consumes about half the power (35W versus 62W) of its 130nm antecedent,” Mr. Brookwood said.

Smaller die size typically allows companies to produce more chips using one wafer, thus, lowering the costs of every chip provided that yield rate is generally the same. With AMD’s high-end desktop and server parts getting lower production costs later this year, the company will be able to improve its profitability.

Mobile Market Yet to Jump on 64-bit

While desktops, servers and workstations based on x86 processors seem to be on the home-stretch with transition to 64-bit processing as both AMD and Intel supply server and workstation chips with 64-bit capability, while AMD also ships 64-bit desktop processors, mobile computers and users may be relatively reluctant to adopt more advanced chips, as Windows XP for 64-bit is still too far away, while usage models of mobile computers is different from what is done on desktops and workstations.

“Applications for 64-bit technology in notebook systems remain few and far between. The major applications that benefit from a move to 64-bit systems include those that either have a large (more than 4GB) memory footprint or those that deal with large databases. These include a smattering of technical applications that need to reside on-site with their users, and some games. Few users maintain terabyte databases on their notebooks and few of today’s notebook systems can accommodate more than four gigabytes of main memory,” Nathan Brookwood added in his report for Insight 64.

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