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Dell embraces AMD chips for courtroom duty?

Anti-trust Athlon mystery

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Opinion Dell has begun to offer AMD Athlon processors via its online store. But the decision has many people scratching their heads. Why would a computer maker with such a staunch Intel-only stance offer chips that can't even slot into its own products? And why would it fail to promote this change in policy if it's actually trying to sell AMD gear?

At last! Dell does AMD. But why now?

A skeptic - not us, mind you, but a skeptic - might posit the idea that Dell's lawyers have more to do with the Athlon decision than the sales staff. With AMD's anti-trust lawsuit against Intel looming, wouldn't Dell prefer to be in court saying, "We do offer AMD processors, judge." Such a gesture certainly takes some of the oomph out of AMD's hint that Dell sticks with Intel because of a sketchy, binding marketing and product discount arrangement.

How else to explain Dell's move?

The hardware maker hasn't picked the AMD chip with the most buzz - Opteron. Dell could really use that product as it has fallen behind rivals on the server performance front. Dell was last to market with a system based on dual-core chips and has seen HP, IBM and Sun Microsystems enjoy tremendous press and customer interest at its expense.

Instead, Dell is selling six, standalone Athlon processors. The chips perform well, which is nice, and could be seen as a plus for customers. Only, you can't buy a Dell system with the chips installed, and you can't upgrade existing PCs because they use Intel-only motherboards.

Dell can hardly claim its a leading component supplier for the white box makers, since most of the build-your-own crowd gets their Athlons elsewhere.

Digesting all of this, however, would be much harder for a judge than the simple premise that Dell does in fact sell products from AMD. It might not expect anyone to buy them, and it doesn't have any products that can use the chips, but it sells AMD gear.

An Intel-only shop? Not anymore, judge, not anymore. ®

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