SUNNYVALE, Calif. - Advanced Micro Devices Inc. is turning up the heat in the microprocessor market with an earlier-than-expected rollout of its 750-MHz Athlon processors. The news comes as Intel Corp. is having difficulty meeting demand for its fastest Pentium III chips, which may be a factor in a new design win AMD has landed with Gateway Inc.
Gateway is expected to announce a line of PCs on Monday based on AMD's flagship product, which is now considered the fastest MPU in the industry. Other OEMs currently shipping Athlon-based boxes include Compaq Computer Corp. and IBM Corp.
AMD has confirmed that it will launch the 750-MHz Athlon on Monday. Just last week at Fall Comdex, the company was saying that the 750-MHz version was not due out until Dec. 13. In fact, AMD has been so successful at manufacturing the Athlon that it can announce faster versions of the chip almost at whim, according to Nathan Brookwood, president of market research firm Insight 64 in Saratoga, Calif. And with this faster chip, AMD has regained the lead in what has become a game of megahertz hopscotch in the high-end microprocessor market.
"Athlon clearly has a lot of room in the architecture to scale, and AMD's 0.18-micron process will allow the silicon to easily reach 800 MHz," Brookwood said. "Increasing the speed grades is mostly a matter of when AMD decides they want to print a new box and label new packages."
The time must look ripe for AMD. Intel has recently confirmed that it is having trouble turning out enough of its fastest Pentium III chips. While Intel said it can meet all existing orders for its 733-MHz product produced at 0.18-micron levels, code-named Coppermine, Brookwood said that Intel is not taking any more near-term orders.
"Gateway needs to be able to deliver the highest-performance desktop systems, and the shortage of 733-MHz Coppermine chips has been a problem," he said. "Switching to the Athlon makes sense because it is now the fastest chip."