Spectators in the gladiatorial contest between AMD and Intel are likely to see blood in the PC amphitheatre between now and the end of the year, as the contenders choose their weapons for the fight. But the question remains whether AMD or Intel will lie wounded on the ground, awaiting the final thumbs-up or thumbs-down from the modern spectators called consumers. In Rome during single combat, the people decided whether a fight should continue to the death or whether mercy should be shown to the wounded. Nothing much has changed. There is no doubt whatever that AMD issued the challenge when it chose to develop the K7, and showed it wanted a fight by calling the processor Athlon. In the bad old days of the Roman empire when this bloody trade was at its height, gladiators sometimes belonged to speculators, who would sell or hire their warriors to the highest bidder. Nothing much has changed. When a contest was up-and-coming in Rome, it was advertised using programmata, with many copies distributed to the people. The notices outlined the date of the show, who was holding it (the editor), the number of pairs of gladiators and the different kinds of combats. The editor tested the weapons and acted as a magistrate during the competition. Those too timid for the fight were pushed into battle with red hot pokers and whips. Nothing much has changed. For weapons, Intel has its price fork, its marketing net and its backstabbing aluminium dagger -- the Pentium III. Behind it, it also has the wealth of speculators and some secret weapons still to come. It is vulnerable because the populace don't care much for its arrogant, somewhat bullying manner. AMD's gladiator -- the Athlon -- on its side has speed, its copper weapon and quite an amount of public support, although speculators seem to have abandoned it and its empire is shrinking. It is vulnerable because of its small size, and because some of its supporters have either fled or are wavering. Although the various editors have so far said that the Athlon, as a weapon, is superior to the Pentium III, this will be a tough and bloody fight. The public, egged on by the editors, will likely decide there should be no mercy in this combat. And if that is the decision of the spectators, the contestant will be taken to a private room away from the amphitheatre, stripped, and then slain. Nothing much has changed. Let the fight commence. ® Register Programmata The Register will be visiting AMD's Fab 30 in Dresden at the beginning of next week. Look forward to that report from the front line.