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AMD 64-bit Hammer delayed

Knocked back to make room for silicon-on-insulator

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AMD has confirmed the Hammer family of 64-bit CPUs have been knocked back six months to Q3 2002.

The reason? To allow AMD to use silicon-on-insulator chip technology to make Hammers run faster and consume less power.

Intel's second-generation 64-bit CPU, McKinley, is due to go into pilot production in Q4 this year. Like the current Itanium processor -= formerly known by its codename, Merced - McKinley will be made available in limited numbers to allow vendors and their major customers to evaluate the technology.

That said, McKinley is expected to show more rapid take up than Merced, as corporates shift over to the new processor on the basis of their Merced evaluations. Or so the theory goes.

AMD clearly reckons it has some breathing room to delay the introduction of the first Hammer CPU, Clawhammer, aimed at one- and two-processor systems. Sledgehammer, designed for four- and eight-way machines, was due later in the second half of 2002. It appears to have been put back too, but not by as much as Clawhammer. In effect, the two processors will be launched much closer together than before.

The time taken to implement SOI will give both Hammers a lead in performance, AMD hopes, something it needs if the company is to win business away from Intel. AMD's presence in the server market is tiny - the recent deal with NEC notwithstanding. However, since the margins are higher, AMD needs to win a far smaller share of the server processor market to yield the revenue that a given increase in the desktop processor arena would provide it with.

The biggest hurdle AMD has to leap is to prove to the world that it can make server CPUs. The latest hints suggest that AMD's dual-CPU 760MP chipset will ship at the end of June or early July (for a big Q3 launch?). Our money's on early July - the timeframe the next-generation Athlon core, Palomino, is expected to debut on the desktop.

Speaking of which, AMD has announced the successor to Thoroughbred, itself the follow-up to Palomino. Codenamed Barton, the new core will essentially be an SOI version of the 0.13 micron Thoroughbred core.

AMD talks about Barton extending the Athlon line out into 2003, which suggests a late 2002 launch. Thoroughbred is due early 2002. ®

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