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AMD K7 strategy is a tightrope walk

Keeping gamesters and big businesses happy simultaneously is tough

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Analysis We now know how AMD will position its Athlon into the high end market but at the same time it will build this push on its loyal consumer base. It is a fact that AMD's success has traditionally been in the entry level end of the market, and they even managed to break Intel's stranglehold on the retail market in the US earlier this year. But in pushing into the corporate marketplace, AMD has to be very careful it does not antagonise the very people who have backed it in the recent past. For example, one senior AMD person said earlier this week: "We don't need those people any more." Tut tut. Those include the games and hardware sites that now proliferate on the WWW. It is interesting that AMD feels the letter "K" is associated in the minds of corporate buyers with the games and enthusiasts market, and that positioning Athlon as the Ultra, the Select or whatever, will help IT buyers to make the switch from Intel Inside to AMD Inside. AMD has to perform this magic act if its high end Athlon strategy is to succeed, but a mere change of name may not be enough to sway those influential people. They may be swayed by the undoubted performance benefits of the Athlon over existing Pentium IIIs. (See for example, the latest issue of c't magazine, where Andreas Stiller, the technical editor, describes the Athlon as the Pentium III Killer, all dressed up in Superman garb). But big business also wants to make sure that any company it is buying from is financially stable -- and there are big question marks over that, as we have already pointed out this week. We know for a fact that UK companies Mesh, and Evesham are gonna go the K7 route. But because of a tricky situation, we don't know whether Dell and Gateway have been forced to retract and take the Intel shilling. Dan Technology, we are told, will not release an Athlon K7 box. As we reported here last June, AMD will intro notebook K7s next year. And the notebook market is going very well for AMD -- it has captured a large amount of orders during the course of this year. AMD needs all the help it can get. It costs a hell of a lot of money to install copper machines in a huge clean room like AMD's in Fab 30. We don't know how many machines are in there, because we weren't allowed into the clean room... We also talked to a whole raft of journalists each of which had signed the non disclosure agreement, each of whom, severally, seemed interested in telling us more about AMD. We said: "No, we don't want to know". So it goes... ®

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