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Intel answers AMD's dual-core chip challenge with French joke

Otellini's foot in mouth disease

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IDF AMD today challenged Intel to a dual-core processor benchmarking duel, and Intel responded by mocking the French.

AMD pumped a few major US newspapers with ads, begging Intel to accept the dual-core challenge. The competition would see AMD put its best performing dual-core Opteron up against a comparable Xeon processor from Intel. A neutral, third-party would conduct a number of benchmark tests, measuring both performance and power consumption, according to the always gracious AMD.

Will Intel accept the challenge?

"I saw the ad this morning over my coffee," said Intel's CEO Paul Otellini, during a question and answer session here at the Intel Developer Forum conference. "I have always thought that companies and products are best judged in the marketplace, and I will leave it at that."

By Otellini's own metrics, AMD has already won the duel. Two years ago the little chipmaker didn't have a single, major server maker on its side. Now it has IBM, HP and Sun Microsystems all shipping fleets of servers and workstations based on its Opteron processor. A recent analyst report said this success has helped AMD pick up 10 per cent of the x86 server market over the past two years - up basically from zero.

Otellini's reticence to answer tough questions or have Intel face up to a head-on challenge looked even worse after his odd treatment of a French reporter at the IDF show.

When asked why Intel was so far behind AMD with a dual-core server chip and "what's wrong with Itanium" by an accented reporter, Otellini responded, "You're obviously from France." The cheap shot triggered a wave of laughter from Intel's staff and other reporters.

Once the laughter died down, Otellini responded to the reporter's question by saying Intel took a leadership position with mobile processors in 2003. Hardly an answer to a question about Intel's close to a year lag behind AMD with a dual-core server processor.

And as to why Itanic wasn't mentioned during Otellini's morning keynote?

"In terms of Itanium, it was time budget," Otellini said. "I was given 59 minutes, and I hit 59 minutes."

Multi-billion dollar investments in next-generation chip architectures just don't buy the plugs they used to.

This type of hard question sidestepping seems to be all Intel can come up with after falling behind rivals IBM, AMD and Sun Microsystems on the cutting edge of the server processor front. To placate reporters, Intel spent most of today talking up a future, unnamed chip architecture that should make it more competitive.

Intel, however, won't has this line thriving until 2007 and 2008.

In the meantime, it would be tough for Intel to compete in a server processor duel given that it doesn't even sell a true dual-core server chip - a fact not lost on AMD. ®

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