March 2001 Industry Update

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Processors

A spokesperson from AMD insisted that the Mobile Palomino will be shipping this quarter, followed by the desktop version next quarter. Morgan should follow a similar release schedule. Whether they will ship in quantity, or will follow the same agonizingly slow ramp that has characterized the 1GHz+ Athlons remains to be seen. With only about two weeks left in the quarter, it should be pretty easy to guess when to expect the official announcement.

266MHz Athlons have been slowly trickling into the market, with a few vendors now listing the 1.33GHz parts on their price lists – though few reports of people actually finding them in stock. It seems that after the fanfare of DDR late last year, AMD wants to avoid looking silly by making a big deal of these parts finally getting out to the marketplace. Though OEMs such as Micron, NEC and HP have been building systems with 266MHz parts for awhile, the stores are not exactly saturated with them.

It appears that at this time the slowest speed Athlon shipping to the retail channels is 1GHz, with a 900MHz Duron soon to appear. With the fastest PIII running at 1GHz and the P4 almost stuck at the gate, this is an almost surrealistic scenario for anyone who has been in the industry for more than a couple of years. Reportedly, dismal P4 sales have taken their toll on Intel revenues. With only the Tualatin to look forward to in Q2, there can’t be much to cheer about for Intel supporters, as even DDR SDRAM gives no real boost to the platform. In fact, by the time Tualatin appears AMD will already have much faster Athlon parts shipping, and will be approaching current P4 speeds.

With little new coming out of Intel recently, all eyes seem to be focused on AMD. Much has been speculated about the delays of the Palomino, and what is might mean. AMD insists that there are no design or manufacturing issues, and if one can take that at face value there seems to only be one possible explanation left. This would be that AMD is controlling the pace of new introductions, and it is in their best interests to keep the pace much slower than it has been the past several years.

It also appears that AMD is feeling much more comfortable about their dominance of the desktop space, and has decided to focus more of their efforts on the mobile market. This would explain why the mobile Palomino and Morgan processors will appear before the desktop versions. In fact, I would not be surprised to see a new AMD roadmap in the near future that reflects this mentality. Though the high-end server market provides a nice profit margin, the volume is relatively small, and it appears that AMD is being patient and methodical. If they can break into the mobile market in a significant way, there is much less pressure to do well immediately in the tough and conservative server market. Along these lines, the AMD spokesperson indicated he was somewhat surprised at the story regarding the IBM Dual Athlon server, which casts some doubt on the veracity of that story, though it is always possible that some ‘secret’ projects are underway.


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