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Promo stunt turns ugly

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AMD and Microsoft want nothing more than to tell you about the wonders of 64-bit Windows computing. The problem is that they've run out of cheap, promotional hardware used to lure customers to their shared North American Tech Tour events, leaving many users questioning whether they'll attend the 64-bit marketing love fests.

Over the past month, AMD and Microsoft have offered prospective Tech Tour attendees massive discounts on PC and server bundles that include the 64-bit Athlon and Opteron chips in combination with 64-bit versions of XP and Windows Server 2003. These bundles have proved so popular that two of the world's largest technology companies simply can't deliver enough gear for the Tech Tour crowd. Word of the hardware shortage has people looking to hear about AMD and Microsoft's offerings concerned, since the marketing extravaganza is only four cities into a 13 city tour.

"AMD and Microsoft are bringing you 64-bit computing at substantial savings!" the companies said in Tech Tour promotional material. "This offer is only available through the registration site, and you must attend the AMD/Microsoft Tech Tour 2005 to purchase."

The two vendors had been offering a PC system running on an Athlon64 3200+ and Windows XP x64 Edition for just $250. In addition, customers could pick up a server system with two Opteron 246 chips and Windows Server 2003 x64 Edition for just $500. Those prices, which basically include Windows for free along with the motherboards, are well below market prices and were meant to tempt resellers, system builders and other partners to get on the 64-bit bandwagon. Microsoft only recently rolled out its 64-bit desktop and server operating systems for AMD's chip and hoped a little brainwashing from 3pm to 10pm would push things along.

Potential Tech Tour attendees, however, quickly found out that the offer was too good to be true.

"Due to the popularity of the offer, we have sold out and do not have any bundles at this time, nor do we know whether there will be any available in the near future," the companies said today in a notice.

So far, events have been held in Chicago, Toronto, Tampa and Atlanta. There are still plenty of events yet to take place throughout the US and Canada, but a few less people might turn up with the prospect of cheap kit gone.

"I don't know if it's worth a drive to Houston now," said Arturo Castellanos, an IT consultant in Austin. "Asking for six hours of our time was already a stretch. The only thing that would get me down there now - besides free servers - is a quality remake of Ballmer's developers, developers, developers skit."

AMD likely has the most to lose should possible attendees drop out of the event because of missing hardware. It's doing all it can, especially in the server market, to exploit a lead over Intel with both 64-bit technology and dual-core processors. Microsoft has been very vocal about its support for AMD, mentioning the chip maker ahead of Intel in some 64-bit Windows promotional material.

Will the two vendors get their acts together and find some cheap PCs and servers for their customers? Here's hoping. ®

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