UPDATE2: AMD Breaks Speed Barrier with 1GHz Athlon

AMD's launch partners, Compaq Computer and Gateway, will get first dibs on the speedy new processors, Steve Lapinski, director of product marketing at AMD's Computation Products Group, said in a conference call with media and analysts today. The chip maker is scheduled to start volume shipments of the 1GHz Athlons to other PC vendors and the general market first in April, he added.

AMD expects to have no problem fulfilling demand for the speedy new chips, Lapinski said.

The first commercially available systems based on the 1GHz AMD Athlon processor are available immediately from Gateway, which in the U.S. is taking orders now for the US$2,999 Select 1000 model. Compaq, meanwhile, later this week will start taking orders for a 1GHz Athlon-powered Presario 5900Z desktop PC.

Users outside of the U.S. will have to wait a little longer to get their hands on the high-speed chips. Gateway plans to offer a 1GHz desktop PC in parts of Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) within the next month, a company spokesman said today, although he couldn't be more precise on the date of the release. Plans for Asia-Pacific weren't immediately available, and Gateway does very little business in Latin America, the spokesman added.

Compaq, meanwhile, is "still evaluating" where and when it will offer 1GHz PCs outside of the U.S., a company spokeswoman said today. Even inside the U.S., a Compaq sales representative said the company won't ship the PCs ordered this week for another two to three weeks.

The AMD Athlon processor is manufactured using AMD's aluminum 0.18-micron process technology, features an advanced microarchitecture optimized for high-clock frequency and the industry's first fully pipelined, superscalar floating point unit for x86 platforms, AMD said. The AMD Athlon system bus runs at 200MHz with support for scalable multiprocessing, the company said.

In a statement, AMD Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Jerry Sanders described the breaking of the 1GHz speed barrier as a watershed event for the personal computer industry, but the company's lead may turn out to be short-lived. Intel plans to launch a 1GHz Pentium III processor today, a source close to the company said.

The 1GHz Athlon will cost $1,299 in 1,000-unit quantities. The 950MHz and 900MHz Athlon chips, also announced today, will cost $999 and $899 in 1,000-unit quantities, AMD said.

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