Dell launches first AMD-based notebook

Without fanfare on Wednesday, Dell launched its first notebook PC powered by a processor from AMD

Dell launched its first notebook PC powered by a processor from Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) instead of an Intel chip.

With the Inspiron 1501, Dell offers users a choice between AMD's low-end Sempron, mobile Turion 64, and dual-core Turion 64 X2 chips. It is aiming the product at home entertainment and small business users, offering a baseline configuration of the Sempron chip, widescreen 15.4-inch display, 80G-byte hard drive and 512M bytes of memory for a starting price of US$549.

Dell launched the product on Wednesday without fanfare, simply listing it on the company Web site without the usual flurry of press releases. The company did not return calls for comment.

Dell had announced in May that it would began selling AMD-based servers, after remaining loyal to Intel processors for so long that it was the only major PC vendor not offering its customers a choice. By then, AMD had eaten significant chunks of Intel's enormous market share, riding the success of its efficient Opteron server chip to acclaim for its full range of chips. Indeed, by September Dell had also launched AMD-powered desktops.

Intel has since struck back, launching its new Core 2 Duo and Xeon 5100 families of chips in June, July and August. But the damage was already done, as a series of disappointing quarterly earnings results forced Intel to reorganize the company and lay off 10,500 employees.

Dell has shown great confidence in AMD by choosing to use the new chips in its notebook line, the one segment of the PC industry that has been fighting a recent slump in sales growth, analysts said.

"This really shows that AMD has emerged as a legitimate option," said Samir Bhavnani, research director at Current Analysis. "For years one of the concerns Dell had with AMD was its ability to meet demand. Dell would not choose to implement AMD processors in a hot category like notebooks if it wasn't fully confident in AMD's ability to deliver."

Now that AMD has finally climbed aboard the Dell sales machine, it can claim a presence with nearly every vendor in the U.S. notebook market. The only remaining bastions of purely Intel notebooks are Lenovo Group, Sony and Toshiba, Bhavnani said.

"For Intel this is a blow, but one they have been anticipating as Dell announced AMD as an option in both servers and desktops earlier this year," he said.

The only question remaining for U.S. notebook shoppers is whether to upgrade their Dell Inspirons with enough memory to accept Microsoft's Windows Vista when it arrives in 2007. The Inspiron 1501 comes with a baseline OS of Windows XP Home Edition, with an option for XP Professional or XP Media Center Edition 2005.

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Ben Ames

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