AMD workstation push will bug Intel

Commercial market an endgame for Athlon

While most reports yesterday focused on Gateway's decision to use Athlon processors in some of its PCs, an announcement AMD made at the same time probably has more significance for the market and Intel generally. A release from AMD said that US manufacturer Pionex will use the 800MHz Athlon in a range of commercial desktops and workstations it is selling. At the same time, 3D Labs said it was optimising its drivers for the Athlon platform. The Pionex systems use the Oxygen GVXI graphics boards, themselves based on 3D technology. The background to this push is interesting. When we visited AMD's Dresden fab last year, AMD European marketing director Robert Stead made it clear to us that his company's strategy was to position its processors to challenge Intel at every level, including the workstation and server market. Although there is some evidence to suggest that at the top end, its Sledgehammer platform has suffered something of a setback because some key architects left AMD shortly after Atiq Raza quit the company, so far Chimpzilla has executed well on the delivery of its K7 Athlons. Some hurdles still prevent the Athlon from being a complete runaway success. First of all, Intel mobile processors, still have the lead over AMD in technological terms and most likely will have for most of this year. However, AMD is chipping away at Intel's market share in the notebook market too. More seriously, AMD admits that it has something of a perception problem in the large corporate market for PCs. In the past, this was a sweet nut that AMD failed to crack. But Stead was clear about AMD's aims back in early August, when we visited the Dresden fab. He said then that his company would brand the K7 the Athlon Ultra for the server and workstation market For the high performance PC market, it would be called the Athlon Professional, while the K7 may well move into the value PC area," he said. Most of the running since early August has been with the gaming sites, most of which have enthusiastically endorsed the Athlon as their choice for running the fun stuff. That's been aided by clever marketing from AMD, which has quite cheerfully exploited the game and hardware sites' views. But AMD is a corporation, has shareholders, and has bigger ambitions than just the game market, which its marketeers have leveraged. The Pionex announcement is, we anticipate, the first of many such wins in the workstation/commercial arena. And in the lucrative workstation end of the x86 market, Intel has had it all of its own way to date. Yesterday, AMD's share price closed at $35, a gain of $2½ during the day, while Intel's price rose by $3¾ to close at $85¾. Later on this week, both companies will report quarterly financial results, which will be watched with much interest. ® See also AMD positions K7 Athlon for enterprise AMD and its Dresden sandpit I AMD and its Dresden sandpit II

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