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AMD Launches Business-Class Chips

Advanced Micro Devices introduced seven processors designed for business desktop PCs, and plans to later offer chips for business notebooks.
Advanced Micro Devices on Monday made its debut in the corporate desktop market with seven processors that come with business-class support.

The new products mark AMD's initial lineup in a market that had been left to rival Intel. AMD plans to launch chips in the second half of the year for business notebooks. The new products will be based on AMD's next generation platform code-named Puma, which ships to computer makers this quarter.

The desktop business chips contain no new technology, but come with a 24-month life cycle, a requirement for the corporate market. Such longevity isn't necessary with AMD's traditional consumer desktop chips, which come and go depending on market demand.

The chips cover AMD's range of quad-, triple- and dual-core offerings, and use the company's 780V chipset, which is the commercial version of the 780G that's available with consumer machines. Rounding out the platform is AMD's ATI Radeon HD 3000 series embedded graphics, and motherboards from Asus, Micro-Star International, and Elitegroup Computer Systems. The motherboards have a three-year warranty.

Computer makers, however, can choose to use competitors' chipsets and graphics with AMD's CPUs.

The AMD chips include the Phenom quad-core X4 9600B for $230, the Phenom triple-core X3 8600B for $175, and the Athlon dual-core X2 5400B and 5200B for $120 and $110, respectively. In addition, AMD is offering the Athlon X2 5000B and 4450B for $95 and $80, respectively; and the single-core Athlon 1640B for $50. The 1640B consumes 45 watts of power, making it a low-power product, according to AMD.

Over the next 12 months, AMD plans to add about four more business-desktop chips, Hal Speed, AMD marketing architect, told InformationWeek. In late 2009, AMD expects to ship a new desktop platform code-named Kodiak.

In reporting AMD's sixth successive quarterly loss this month, company executives told financial analysts they would launch products for business markets not previously served by the chipmaker. AMD forecasts it will break even in the fourth quarter via a strategy that depends on launching new products, including the company's first 45-nanometer chips. Intel has been selling 45-nm processors since the fourth quarter of last year.

The next-generation processors are the result of a manufacturing process that shrinks the size of transistors to 45 nm from the 65 nm found in older processors. With more transistors per core, the new chips pack far higher power-performance ratios.

AMD for years has shipped server processors under the Opteron brand, which also paved the way for the expansion into business clients. "Opteron was the penetration strategy," Speed said. "That built the credibility with [computer manufacturers] and with enterprise customers."

Some analysts say the company has a shot at stopping the bleeding if it delivers new product on time. "We believe that, for the first time since mid-2006, AMD will offer a processor lineup that is reasonably close to matching Intel's on a feature and performance basis," John Spooner, analyst for Technology Business Research, said in a recent commentary.