AMD updates roadmaps, forecast to analysts

Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) executives updated roadmaps for desktop, mobile and server lines of processors through the end of 2003, as well as giving insight into the volatile flash-memory market in a Web broadcast Thursday of a meeting with financial analysts.

By the second half of 2003, AMD expects to offer a 0.10-micron version of its Athlon XP processor on the desktop, Dirk Meyer, group vice president of AMD's computation product group, said at the meeting. The Athlon XP 4400+, which will use AMD's recently introduced TPI (true performance initiative) branding, will be the company's first 0.10-micron offering, a shrink from the circuit printing size used in its current 0.18-micron offerings.

Processors manufactured using the 0.10-micron process should mean that users will have faster, cooler-running chips that consume less power in desktops, laptops and servers.

AMD launched the Athlon XP family in October, giving the chips model numbers instead of branding them by clock speed, as had been done in the past. The branding is designed to represent the performance of the new chips compared both to previous Athlons and the competition. For example, AMD says the 1800+ outperforms other processors running 1.8GHz, although the chip runs at 1.53GHz. Currently, AMD's fastest chip is the 1900+ version of the processor, which actually runs at 1.6GHz.

Beginning in the first half of 2003, the company expects to release a series of server processors based on its "Hammer" core, Meyer said. Hammer is the code name of AMD's eighth generation core. While the server chip family is the only group to take the name, AMD's desktop and mobile versions will all be 0.10-micron chips using that core by the end of 2003, according to AMD.

The first Hammer processor is set to be widely available in the second half of 2002. That processor, called ClawHammer, will be aimed at the dual-processor server market, as well as the high-end desktop and mobile markets, Meyer said. The introduction of the SledgeHammer processor in the first quarter of 2003 will be aimed at servers using four or more processors, and will have a larger on-die memory cache than its predecessor, he said.

The Hammer chips for servers will be AMD's first 64-bit offerings, allowing access to more than 4G bytes of RAM, which is useful for large back-end applications, such as databases. The processors can also run 32-bit applications, which access less RAM, so software can be standardized across notebooks, desktops and servers.

The company's roadmap for mobile processors was also extended into 2003, where it expects its top chip in the second half of the year to be the 0.10-micron 3800+ processor, Meyer said.

AMD's flash-memory business, which experienced a 30 percent drop in revenue last quarter and almost single-handedly caused AMD to downgrade its financial forecast, should have year-on-year unit growth in the third quarter of next year, Walid Maghribi, president of AMD's memory group, said at the meeting. However, the company also anticipates a continued sharp decline in average selling prices into the fourth quarter of next year, he said.

AMD's flash business has also been held back by its RAM joint venture with Fujitsu Ltd., called Fujitsu AMD Semiconductor Ltd. (FASL), which prevented AMD from selling its own flash memory in certain markets, Maghribi said.

"This has made it quite hard for us to maintain worldwide market share, but we have still managed to do it," Maghribi said. "We recently modified the agreement with Fujitsu to open the whole world to us, except for Japan."

AMD also expects its revenue in the current quarter to be flat to slightly up from the third quarter, with a return to profitability expected in the second quarter of 2002, Jerry Sanders, AMD's chief executive officer, said at the meeting.

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Douglas F. Gray

Computerworld
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