Bugs at the core delay AMD's next-generation chips

Confirming what many in the chip world had suspected for some time, CEO Hector Ruiz and other AMD execs fessed up that bugs in its new quad-core Barcelona server and Phenom desktop chips will delay these key next-generation technologies. The fastest versions will be delayed at least three months.

With Christmas just 11 days away, you have to wonder what Hector Ruiz is going to find under his tree. It's been a terrible year for Advanced Micro Devices, and the chipmaker's analysts conference on Thursday did nothing to spread holiday cheer.

Confirming what many in the chip world had suspected for some time, CEO Ruiz and other AMD execs fessed up that bugs in its new quad-core Barcelona server and Phenom desktop chips will delay these key next-generation technologies.The technical problems will delay general availability of the fastest version of the chips for three or four months. Customers willing to settle for slower clock speeds will be able to get the processors sooner; for example, AMD will ship a 2 gigahertz version of the Barcelona first, instead of the expected 2.5 gigahertz speed. In either case, the chips will be close to a year late; the original target date was the first quarter of 2007.


The problem couldn't come at a worse time. AMD has struggled all year to close the performance gap between its high-end chips and Intel's. Barcelona, the company had promised, would restore its technical supremacy. Indeed some analysts said they had expected the quad-core server chip to do just that. "At 2.5 gigahertz it would have beaten any Intel products," said analyst Nathan Brookwood of Insight64. "But at 2 gigahertz, it's bringing up the rear," he said.

Intel, meanwhile, has corrected many of the problems that dogged it earlier in the decade. "AMD isn't competing against the Intel of two years ago," said Dean McCarron of Mercury Research. Intel has had quad-core chips in the market for about a year. To be fair, its chips are based on a somewhat simpler design; Intel gets to four cores by packaging two dual-core chips together. By contrast, AMD's design integrates four cores on one chip, a more efficient solution, said McCarron. Except that AMD's approach reduces yields and thus raises manufacturing costs, he added.

There was earlier speculation that Barcelona's problems were related to the ATI graphics chipset, but the problem turns out to be deeper, at the chip level. AMD has said it is related to the translation lookaside buffer (TLB) in the processor's L3 cache.


In the Thursday conference, analysts had expected discussion of the company's "asset light strategy," which will apparently entail outsourcing more manufacturing to foundries such as Chartered Semiconductor or TSMC. But they didn't get it, and the lack of details made CEO Ruiz's promise to return to profitability in 2008 less credible to Wall Street. AMD's financial performance has been terrible, losing money for four straight quarters. Part of the reason: Intel and AMD have engaged in a bloody price war, a struggle that has been very tough on the smaller company's profit margins. But the Barcelona and Phenom delays are serious self-inflicted wounds.

AMD's stock lost another few points yesterday and has now shed about 40% in the last two months and a bone-jarring 56% since the beginning of the year. At US$8.84 a share, Thursday's closing price, the stock is at its lowest ebb since the summer of 2003. Ironically, AMD has so far rewarded Ruiz with pay raises.

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Bill Snyder

Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles


PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?