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Analysis The jury, in the shape of the press and the various Web hardware sites, has now been out for a month on the performance of the AMD Athlon microprocessor. Practically all of the reviews of the Athlon K7 we've read have given it glowing reviews, and reported strong performance gains over the Pentium III. Further, senior analysts at the major market research companies believe AMD is in with a chance. Joe D'Elia, senior microprocessor analyst at Dataquest Europe, told us at launch time earlier in the month that for the first time, AMD has a clear technology lead over Intel. And according to AMD distributors, there are significant volumes of the Athlon in the market, with the chip company set to push into third and fourth tier PC manufacturers. The list of companies carrying Athlon parts is already significant in the UK. Over the weekend, Dixons, the mammoth high street group, started selling systems through its chain. Time, part of the Granville Group, and a significant player in the market, is also selling Athlon PCs. Soo too are Mesh, Evesham Micro, Panrix, Actinet, Compute It and Carrera. Dan Technologies, we understand, now wants to jump on the gravy train too. Said Sukh Rayat, managing director of Flashpoint, a major UK chip distributor: "I have to say we've seen significant revenues coming from the K7 already." He claimed the Athlon is "taking the market by storm". Said Rayat: "We're very happy with sales and volumes and the next stage will be sell into the tier three and tier four market." Luke Ireland, marketing director at Evesham Micro, said: "We're very happy with the way Athlon sales are going. I don't believe Intel has anything to match AMD in the near future. " Ireland disclosed that AMD was getting much higher yields than 650MHz K7s and he confirmed Evesham is pleased with the volumes his company is receiving. Evesham has been a long time supporter of AMD technology. We met them first at the launch of the K6-2. Meanwhile, Intel's decision to cut its high end desktop processor prices last weekend, is a tactical move and a cunning plan, which does, however, have the possibility of misfiring. By sacrificing price margins on its Pentium IIIs, Intel is hoping that it will drive the upstart out of the marketplace. According to an Intel representative yesterday, it took the decision to slash the price of the Pentium III/500 in a bid to aim for the lucrative Christmas market. However, if there is a problem with the Athlon, it could be that of motherboard support. We have reported over the last weeks of problems with component parts. The Taiwanese mobo makers need to ramp up their volumes to support the K7. If there is a bottleneck, it will be there. One big question now remaining is whether AMD will manage to resist price moves from its giant opponent. If it succumbs to this pressure, things may not be quite so rosy. ®

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