AMD to fill Intel price gap with dual-processor Athlon

The new dual-processor Athlon will sport DDR (double data rate) memory, AMD's 760 MP chip set, debut at speeds well past 1GHz, and intentionally undercut Intel's Foster pricing, sources said.

Intel's Foster, the code name for its hybrid Pentium 4/Xeon chip, will debut at 1.4GHz and operate with Rambus memory, according to Intel officials. Pricing for Foster, which undergoes its first public demonstration this week, has not yet been revealed.

Intel recently announced it would push its Pentium 4 chips for single-processor devices such as PCs, while the dual-processing needs of workstations and servers will be met by Foster. The move drew criticism from many industry experts who felt Intel was simply trying to put extra pricing distance between its PC chips and its multiprocessor chips.

Prior to Intel's decision, users routinely used less expensive Pentium III chips in multiprocessor devices instead of pricier Xeon chips, said Nathan Brookwood, principal analyst at Insight 64.

Rob Enderle, an analyst at Giga Information Group believes the new AMD Athlon could spell a win for AMD.

"If you combine a strong offering from AMD with a price uplift from Intel [with Foster], you will get a large number of the performance-buying audience interested. DDR has looked stronger to that audience than Rambus, and if the [Foster] price increase by Intel looks like a slap, then AMD wins this round," Enderle said.

AMD's 760 MP chip set could give the company's new Athlon an edge over Intel's Foster, Brookwood said.

"Because of [AMD's] architecture, each chip has a direct path to the chip set. That should give them some performance advantages," Brookwood said.

Intel will answer any performance claims by AMD with sheer processor speed, quickly pushing Foster near the 2GHz mark, predicted Brookwood.

Workstations will be fresh territory for AMD. The new Athlon will be the first AMD chip to try and tap the dual-processor workstation market, Brookwood said.

On the other hand, Intel has made significant headway into the dual-processor workstation market during the last few years, beating out Unix workstations from companies such as Sun Microsystems.

"If you look at what's gone on in the workstation market, the Unix workstation market has been stuck at a million to a million and a half units per year. And the Intel market is now at 2 to 3 million units per year," Brookwood said.

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