In the past seven months, AMD has released a total of eight Athlon CPUs, ranging in speed from 500MHz up to the 850MHz monster that was released just last month on the 14th of February. We have never seen something like this from AMD; if you remember, it took AMD forever to break the 233MHz barrier with their K6 processor when they finally released the K6-266 almost 10 months after the announcement of the K6 166, 200 and 233MHz parts.
As a company, AMD has been known to be plagued with problems related to yield on their processors as well as delivering on time. Many OEMs were skeptical about supporting AMD after being burned by them so many times in the past, especially with the K5.
The OEMs bet quite a bit on the success of the Athlon, and luckily, they put their money on the right product, as the Athlon has quickly excelled to the point of becoming a direct threat to Intel’s stronghold in the performance desktop segment. Now with the Athlon dropping in price as the clock speeds continue to increase, AMD is slowly making their way into the low-cost market segment and will further increase their exposure there by releasing a low-cost version of the Athlon in the coming months. If Intel says that they do not feel the least bit threatened, then they’re telling you a lie.
However, one thing that you have to keep in mind is that Intel doesn’t have to run and hide in order to compete against AMD. Regardless of how powerful the Athlon is or how great the support is for the chip, the fact of the matter is that Intel still has the upper hand. Because of this, AMD must work double-time in order to gain that 30% worldwide market share that CEO Jerry Sanders has reaffirmed as a goal for the company.
The results of this intense effort from AMD to remain competitive are multi-fold. One of the most noticeable results has been the recent clock speed battle between AMD and Intel that has been in full effect since the end of last year. Most of those in AMD and Intel’s market buys based on two main factors: price and clock speed. While most AnandTech readers don’t buy based on clock speed alone (I would hope so), there are millions of other computer users out there that aren’t as well informed.
Because of this fact, OEMs like Dell and Compaq require high clock speed parts in order to remain competitive with one another. If Dell were offering an 800MHz system and Compaq were offering a 750MHz system, the uninformed user would, more than likely, view the Dell system as being the faster of the two, regardless of what CPUs we were talking about, simply because of the higher MHz rating.
AMD is enjoying the benefits of very high yields on their Athlon parts; this is something they are definitely not used to but something they’re taking advantage of in competing with Intel on a clock for clock basis. In the past few months Intel has been experiencing major shortages of their flagship competitor to AMD’s Athlon, the Pentium III, and AMD has been capitalizing off their shortages by making sure that their OEMs and distributors have more than enough Athlon CPUs in the higher clock speed range – 700MHz and above, an area where Intel CPUs are currently scarce in.
Today, March 6, 2000, AMD is taking this clock speed battle to the next level. Shortly after Intel’s demonstration of a Willamette running at 1.5GHz at their Developer Forum in Palm Springs, AMD made the decision to go ahead with the launch of their Magnolia processor. What is Magnolia? The codename for the launch of the Athlon CPU running at 1000MHz, or 1GHz as we have come to call it.
If MHz sells, then AMD is about to rack up some serious sales with their 900, 950 and 1000MHz Athlon CPUs which are all being announced today.