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Brash AMD says server chip future is two years back

Loud on paper, quiet on product

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Near IDF AMD showed its knack for bluster by issuing a processor challenge to Intel in newspapers yesterday, but company representatives took a more reserved tone during meetings with reporters. In fact, AMD's staffers wouldn't budge on a single new detail about the Opteron processor line in our interview session.

Instead of new details, AMD focused on how it established a server chip performance edge over Intel. Talk centered around AMD's Direct Connect memory architecture, its lead with 64-bit extensions and its lead with dual-cores. AMD has solved the memory bottleneck issues that continue to plague Intel, and it's not afraid to say so.

This string of successes pumped AMD full of confidence - so much so that it filled major US newspapers on Tuesday with a dual-core duel challenge to Intel. AMD knows it has a temporary lead over Intel by having a dual-core server chip already on the market. Intel's dual-core Xeon won't appear until later this year.

AMD, however, won't commit to maintaining a technology lead over Intel by, for example, releasing a four-core processor before its rival. Intel has pegged 2007 for shipments of four-core chips. AMD won't provide a date.

"We can't give you details with the next generation products," said a spokesman. "We revealed our next generation architecture two years ago, and that architecture continues to work very well for us."

So while Intel, which must talk about the future because the present isn't pretty, looks forward to numerous dual-core and multicore projects and promises stunning performance per watt products, AMD wants to look two years back.

It's an interesting strategy for an underdog, but not one we're sure will win a war against the world's largest chipmaker.

Beyond not chatting up future product, AMD won't even talk about the current state of the Opteron market. Months ago company CEO Hector Ruiz once proclaimed Sun as the leading Opteron customer on the planet - to the displeasure of big Opteron backer HP. Now AMD has decided it won't reveal who the leading Opteron customer is currently.

We were told that Ruiz would comment on the race between Sun and HP "when there's something to say about it." Such language would lead many to believe Sun still holds the Opteron sales lead, although our checks point to HP as the winner.

Similarly, AMD would not even admit frustration that one of the world's largest server makers - Dell - won't pick up its flashy server chip.

"There is nothing to be frustrated about," the spokesman said.

AMD's anti-trust suit against Intel would seem to deliver a different message.

Given the cloak and dagger machinations we had to go through to reach AMD's meeting while at the Intel Developer Forum, we'd hoped for some more information. A leak about the company's four-core plans would have garnered more free press than AMD's ribald advertisements.

Instead, we were told to "meet the lady in black on the street corner and tell her you're with AMD." Then a limo arrived out of nowhere, and we were whisked away to a plush San Francisco hotel.

The limo driver revealed that AMD and Intel both use the same driving service, and the company was doing all it could not to offend a customer. So, we winked twice, scratched our tush, did one spin and threw our IDF badge on the floor. The signal got us to AMD but not any closer to answers. ®

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