January 2001 Industry Update

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There have been some rumors that the Mustang core processors (Palomino/Morgan) will not actually be produced until mid-year, which would be a fairly significant problem for AMD. According to the AMD roadmap, Palomino processors should be in production this quarter for the desktop, and no official change from that schedule has been mentioned. My source close to AMD indicated that it is unlikely that this schedule has been changed, but not necessarily out of the question. However, when asked what ‘in production’ specifically meant, there was no definite answer forthcoming. It could mean ‘starting production’ or it could mean ‘finished die’ – but is most likely the latter. The current expectation is that we will see a 1.3GHz Athlon this quarter (unspecified if it will be a Tbird or a Mustang core), a 1.5GHz in Q2 (almost certainly a Mustang core) and 1.7GHz in the 2nd half, with a 2GHz Athlon possible in Q1 ’02 (probably .13u).

There have been some rumors that Palomino/Morgan processors will not operate on the KT133 chipset, but will on the KT133A. I have not seen any plausible explanation for this, however it is possible. It has also been suggested that Palomino/Morgan processors will only run at 266MHz FSB, however an AMD spokesperson indicated that they are not currently planning on abandoning the 200MHz FSB, particularly since OEMs want them. If there were an issue, it would likely be due to the fact that the new processor core would be using some previously unused pins, and the KT133 was not designed to utilize them.

Based upon the fact that motherboard makers are planning to release their boards in the next two to three weeks, it would seem that DDR capable Athlon processors should be out by early February. AMD is not confirming or denying any dates, but sources from close partners of AMD seem to be hinting that mid-February is probably the latest to expect them. AMD is being extremely cautious about this launch. While Intel’s reputation seems to be able to survive relatively unaffected by their stumbles, AMD probably wouldn’t fare so well, or at least that appears to be the thinking.

It also looks like AMD may be poised to move into the business market very soon, with both Maxdata (Europe) and Micron (USA) offering business systems with Athlon processors. A recent report from EBN suggests that Sun may be ready to offer a low-end server system utilizing the Athlon. These could be very significant developments, allowing AMD to ship the 40 million processors and giving them the 30% market share they have forecast.

In addition to recently releasing an 850MHz Duron to remain ahead of the ‘low end’ MHz race, AMD has just released a mobile Duron processor to compete head-to-head against the mobile Celeron, though it utilizes the current Tbird core and draws a fair amount of power. After steadily losing ground in the notebook market, this mobile Duron should give AMD a small boost, as it competes very well against the Celeron performance-wise, and offers speeds of 600MHz to 700MHz. Previously, the fastest mobile CPU AMD had to offer was the K6-2+ at around 500MHz. Mobile Morgan/Palomino processors based upon the Mustang core are still several months away, so the mobile Duron looks a like an interim solution to stop marketshare erosion.

In terms of production, the AMD spokesperson I talked with would not confirm that Fab 30 is currently operating at 50% capacity, but did reiterate that they will have the capacity to make 40 million processors in 2001 at both Fab 25 and Fab 30. Currently, Fab 25 is making K6-x processors and Durons, with all Tbird Athlons currently being manufacturered in Dresden, according to this source.


Despite finally releasing a 100MHz FSB Celeron, Intel really has no answer to the Athlon/Duron at this time. The P4 is not yet ready for prime-time, and the PIII is severely clock-rate limited right now, so AMD seems to be in a position to take advantage of the situation, if no major issues crop up.

On the other hand, by mid-year Intel will have the Brookdale chipset for the P4, the VIA DDR chipset for the P4, and Tualatin (.13u PIII), so AMD is in no way assured of keeping any market share gained in the next quarter or two. Though the Mustang core will provide a small amount of breathing room, AMD is at least a half-year behind Intel in getting to a .13u process, and the ‘Hammer family is still at least a year away.

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