Duron shortages looming?

Chimpzilla could just have been too clever for its own good

The hardware site cognoscenti are making much of the fact that AMD's Celeron basher, Duron, is a completely different beast from the high-end Athlons and Thunderbirds. And in a simplistic way, they're right.

The fact that Duron is a completely different processor from its big brothers has a certain elegance - and that's precisely the sort of thing the hardware geeks go for.

Intel's Celeron has always been a cut-down, hobbled, castrated Pentium II or III - something the AMD camp trot out at every opportunity. Of course, they actually love the Celeron because there's a big macho thing about how much you can overclock them, but there's always the taint of having a processor that somehow isn't the best that money can buy - it's always going to be a Ford Escort with plastic spoilers and a cheap aftermarket turbo rather than a Jaguar XKR.

So Duron is targeted very precisely at the geeks that currently boast about having a 300MHz Celeron that runs at 1.2GHz. It's an entry-level CPU, but it's its own man, not a crippled Athlon. It even has clock locking, making it even more of a real processor.

What no one seems to have spotted is a simple economy of scale issue.

Intel runs half a dozen 0.18 micron fabs. It churns out Coppermine chips like there's no tomorrow [So how come there's always a shortage of them then? - Ed]. The ones that make the grade get boxed up as 1GHz Pentium IIIs, the slightly iffy ones become 750MHz parts, and the ones that come out with half their L2 cache knackered get to be badged Celerons.

The bottom line for Chipzilla is that it hardly ever has to throw anything away - effectively it only builds one CPU so almost every chip it etches can be used for something or other.

AMD has - at best - a third the number of fabs that Intel can boast, and yet it has two completely different 0.18 processor products. A dodgy Thunderbird can't be recycled as a Duron because it's twice the die size for a start.

Sure you can get more Durons on a wafer, so there's some economy there, but manufacturing two different product lines while having far less capacity than the opposition seems to be asking for trouble.

Could it be that AMD is becoming rather closer to Intel than it might like in terms of leaving itself wide open to the risk of shortages? ®

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