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AMD sells first 90nm CPUs - analyst

Revenue shipments this week, volume output next month

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AMD has begun revenue shipments of its 90nm processors and will begin larger scale output next month, a Goldman Sachs analyst has claimed.

That's within the broad schedule the chipmaker has discussed in public: revenue shipments by the end of Q3, with wide availability sometime during H2 2004.

AMD has already said that it has reached its first 90nm production milestone - chips fabbed using the process began to come off the company's Dresden production lines last quarter - but actually making chips that can be sold for hard cash rather than offered to potential customers as samples is the second milestone. The next one is volume output.

"AMD appears to be executing well on its AMD64 roadmap," wrote Goldman Sachs analyst Andrew Root to investors this week, according to an Investors Hub posting. "Revenue shipments of AMD64 notebooks on 90nm started this week, well within the planned schedule for shipments prior to the end of Q3. Desktop AMD64 shipments on 90nm will commence a month later, followed by servers."

Root also claims that "AMD is one of the few companies on 90nm that does not seem to have had significant delays or defect issue". That remains to be seen. Certainly the chipmaker has allowed itself more time to explore the current leakage problems that plagued Intel's early 90nm offerings, while IBM continues to struggle with the 90nm yield issues that are causing Apple so much grief.

Like IBM, AMD is using silicon-on-insulator (SOI) techniques but at least isn't running the risk of biting off more than it can chew by attempting to incorporate strained silicon materials too.

By sticking to techniques it knows well, AMD is better placed perhaps to make a successful run at getting 90nm right first time, since SOI almost certainly will help keep leakage down. But moving from 130nm to 90nm is no easy task, and it's too early to say there are no "defect issues". And it wills still have a yield ramp-up to cope with, as all chipmakers do with new product and a new process.

AMD's latest public roadmap continues to call for the delivery of 90nm Opterons - aka 'Venus', 'Troy' and 'Athens' - the 'Winchester' desktop Athlon 64 and its low-voltage mobile equivalent, 'Oakville'. ®

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