Features: AMD vs. Intel
AMD vs. Intel: AMD Rolls Out a New Weapon
by
Bert McComas, InQuest Market Research
AMD takes the first shot.  Itís high noon, but only one contender has shown up with ammunition. 

Athlon+DDR chipsAMD has launched its Athlon+DDR missile in the face of Intelís absent P4+RDRAM platform.  The market is getting used to this.  AMD has executed a 12-month onslaught of seemingly uncontested advancements in clock speed, availability, pricing, branding and platform technology Ė with no credible response from Intel, yet.

The tenuous launch and embarrassing collapse of the 1.13GHz processor has left the Pentium3 in an unenviable state. It has fallen -- and canít get up.  In the months since this fiasco, the market has lost hope for a sudden, confident comeback.  According to Intelís latest leaks, by the time faster P3s are restored to the roadmap, they will be almost a year behind the power curve.  So it looks like the P3 is out for the count at the hands of Athlon. Roadkill.

The 1.13GHz fumble, combined with the carnage from the failed Rambus strategy has seriously tarnished Intelís image as a leader.  Now, with a roar, AMD is launching DDR -- while Intel sits on the sidelines mulling it over (very, very seriously, mind you).  In the face of this market sentiment, Intel must bet the farm on its untried Pentium4.  Athlon will soon have a new sparring partner.  In order to evaluate the competitive outlook for the next six months, one must consider many issues and questions, perhaps including the following:

  • Power users and enthusiasts are swimming in choice. Will they flock to P4 based on clock speed alone? Will P4 platforms offer any other compelling qualities (not found elsewhere)? 
  • Will the market suddenly overcome an acquired distaste for Rambus?  With the P4 joined at the hip to RDRAM, can the P4 dodge the same "clock speed overkill" bullet that is undermining Rambus?
  • Intel was the last in the world to acknowledge that PC133 is faster than RDRAM.  Will the market put its trust in Intelís new P4 benchmarks?  Will the market be confused by the P4ís unexpected performance balance?
  • The market has foreknowledge of a P4 package change, die shrink, a performance boost, and a sensible switch to DDR Ė all scheduled to happen in mid 2001.  What portion of the market will choose to hold back on P4 while it makes these early course corrections?
  • What if the market envisions the new P4+RDRAM as a little too exotic -- and the P3 as a lame duck?  Would this not leave a discontinuity in Intelís roadmap big enough for AMD to drive a truck of high-speed Athlons through?
AMD offers spectrum and a strong value proposition to fill an otherwise confusing space between the P3 and P4.  AMD does not seem to be burdened with artificial limitations, irregularities, blatantly wrong strategies, or gaping price/performance discontinuities.The first half of 2001 should be very interesting.

Next: The Processors