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AMD next-gen ultrathin gets early birthday

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AMD is poised to beat Intel in the race to ship the next generation of both beefy server processors and ultrathin-notebook chips.

During yesterday's conference call announcing the company's first-quarter earnings, AMD's CEO Dirk Meyer and multi-hatted EVP, COO, and CAO Bob Rivet let it be known that both the six-core Istanbul server beastie and the ultrathin-notebook Congo platform will be available during the current quarter.

Discussing Istanbul, Meyer said: "I am pleased to announce that thanks to our strong engineering and execution, we are pulling in revenue shipments of Istanbul into May, with system availability in June."

Note the bit about "revenue shipments." AMD is still struggling to break even financially, so any extra cash in May and June will help make its Q2 2009 numbers more bearable.

Intel, as is now well known to world+dog, recently debuted its four-core Nehalem EP-based Xeon 5500 series. Its eight-core Nehalem EX isn't expected until next year. And Chipzilla doesn't have any six-core chips in its roadmap.

But as AMD delivered more Istanbul details during another press call this afternoon, Intel had this to say: "As competitors fall behind in performance, you’ll see them throw more cores and more die size at their processors to keep up. This takes up valuable processor real estate and fab capacity. The key is not I/O, integrated memory controllers, or any one peripheral feature. The key is who has the better processor microarchitecture, and clearly that is Intel."

Meanwhile, the Congo platform is designed for the emerging niche of ultrathin notebooks such as the MacBook Air and HP Pavilion dv2 intended for stylistas who want full PC performance in a smaller form factor.

Congo will feature a dual-core version of AMD's Neo processor, codenamed Conesus. Earlier reports had that platform shipping later this year, but apparently things are going more smoothly than expected at AMD. As Rivet said, "We'll be shipping that platform at the back end of this quarter."

Congo is a follow-on to the company's single-core Yukon platform, which was its first foray into the latest acronym du jour, CULV - for consumer ultra-low voltage. Not to be outdone, Intel has its own CULV parts in its pipeline - but they won't appear until later this year.

AMD may be first in this race, but they'd do well to remember the old adage: "The pioneers get the arrows. The settlers get the land." ®

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