AMD to announce Dell design win for Athlon 4

Last Intel-only PC vendor to cave in, predicts analyst

AMD has finally won over Dell. The PC vendor will end its exclusive use of Intel CPUs in June when it announces that it will use AMD's mobile Athlon 4 in an upcoming high performance laptop.

That, at least, is what Thomas Weisel Partners analyst Eric Ross claims to have been told by sources. In a pro-AMD report issued to investors today, Ross said AMD will announce Dell's support at the Computex Taipei show early next month.

If Dell does sign up for the mobile Athlon 4, it will mark a very significant victory for AMD. It's been trying to get Dell to stop being an Intel-only supplier for some time, so the deal will mark a major psychological victory over its arch-rival. Dell is the only top-tier PC vendor that has yet to ship AMD-based machines.

It's important strategically too. Dell has become a major provider of hardware to big business. The corporate market - AMD calls it the 'commercial' arena - is one the chip maker is very keen to enter as it strives to be seen not only as a consumer market player.

Compaq has already begun shipping a notebook, the Presario 1200, based on the Athlon 4, and Hewlett-Packard has pretty much committed itself to doing so in the near future.

For Dell, writes Ross, "as the last of the top-tier PC OEMs to use Pentiums exclusively, Dell may feel somewhat disadvantaged by its heavier reliance on Intel, whose execution has been spotty as of late".

That's a reference to the poor scalability of the Coppermine Pentium III to speeds of 1GHz and over, and the unsuitability of Pentium 4 to the mobile market (it has the speed, but not the right power conservation and heat generation characteristics).

However, Intel's 0.13 micron mobile Tualatin, which is expected to ship next month at 1.13GHz and 1.06GHz, won't leave AMD so far ahead of its rival for long. AMD's lead is dependent on Intel's ability to ship the part - it's not done too well with the 1GHz PIII - and how well Tualatin's version of SpeedStep matches the power-conservation abilities of AMD's latest iteration of PowerNow!

Still, even if Intel does challenge AMD and does so quickly, the Dell win will remain a real blow to the company, one that may take it longer to recover from. ®

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