Concentration

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“Depend upon it, sir, when a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully.”–Samuel Johnson

AMD certainly has had enough bad news to concentrate their minds and get their act together for the rest of the year.

Then again, “Concentration” is also a televised word game.

Which is it?

A No Problem Problem

Now we hear that a 333MHz bus is being considered. Now we hear that AMD is “fixing” the Thoroughbred.

Oh, really?

And just what is the “small problem” AMD is fixing? I guess we don’t need to know that.

I’m sure that’s going to make owners of 2200+ processors really happy.

Remember, this is a company that cheerfully admitted after the fact that they pushed early K6-2 designs “until they broke.”

If indeed all of this is true, and there is a “revision 2” in the works, why would you want to buy revision 1 with some unidentifiable problem?

Hmmmm?

A No Advance Advance

Now we hear these things are supposed to do better than AMD supposedly ever thought.

Oh, really?

Funny, that’s not what AMD execs were saying to analysts almost nine months ago. Take a look at this slide from that presentation.

It shows AMD’s processor progress stalling from April to August, just like it has, then it shows a steady rise from August on to about 4GHz (that would include .09 micron migration). So please, spare me such nonsense.

If you look at the improvements from the stories, it sounds rather similiar to what we’ve heard about Barton, as the original news story points out.

But Barton is supposed to only be made by UMC, and not until 2003.

You also have to wonder; if all these improvements are so wonderful, why isn’t AMD releasing anything faster than a 2600+? If these “improvements” are what’s needed just to get a 2400+ and 2600+ out the door; it’s hardly reason for hullabaloo.

Going to 166MHz FSB? If it happens, about time, but it’s no savior. When you’re talking 2GHz CPUs, going up to 166MHz pretty much just ensures that further ramping actually get you a reasonable level of improvement.

Chickens Without Heads

I’m getting a little tired of Strategy of the Month from AMD. When the line keeps changing, there’s no point in believing any of them.

First, Thoroughbred and Barton were supposed to be significant, though junior partners. Then, “What’s Thoroughbred? Hammer, Hammer, Hammer” Now, “Of course, socket A is going to be around a long time.”

It’s like dealing with a company near or in bankruptcy. If you’re going to do business with them, you don’t want stories, you want cash. AMD has reached that state when it comes to what they’re going to do. You don’t want vague stories. You want to see specifics. You want product. Show me the money.

Intel is out to do a body slam on AMD this fall. Forget the 2.8 and 3.06 chips. The body slamming to AMD occurs further down the line.

When a 2.53GHz processor costs about $253, that will practically guarantee that AMD won’t get more than about $150 for even their best CPU during Christmas season.

Prices on 2GHz-2.2GHz PIVs will probably hover around $200, which means the prices of equivalent AMD chips will hover around $100.

To break even, AMD has to bring in about $650-700 million from its processor division. That realistically means an ASP of $80-90. There’s no way AMD is going to reach that level with just a 2600+ leading the way.

AMD is going to have to do some tweaking to get a decent yield of 2600+ chips; maybe that’s all the “improvements” are all about.

Beyond that, maybe AMD is going to force-feed the Neglected Nag soon. Maybe Dresden will go into the Barton business. I hope so, for their sakes. Otherwise, Santa is going to bring Hector a lump of coal for Christmas.

Maybe they’re not, and they’re just playing word games to boost the morale of the fanboys. At this point, I’m more inclined to believe that.

Before you take these AMD stories seriously, you ought to hear, at a minimum, “We’ll have this out by this point in time.” Anything less than that should be ignored, and this is less than that.

AMD has no problem saying, “You’ll see Hammer at the beginning of 2003.” If what is being said about whatever is solid and not spin, they can say the same for this new-and-improved whatever.

Unless you belong to Processor Of The Month Club, if you have a socket A system, you might as well wait until Barton and Hammer show up, whenever that might be. You have time; you can wait. Intel won’t be seriously ahead until 3GHz+ overclocked machines with dual DDR is commonplace.

If you have a lower-powered socket A system, pick up a dirt-cheap Palomino to hold you for a while.

See what Hammer and Barton are like. If either or both are fine, or if Hammer at least shows promise, stick with AMD (personally, I suspect Barton followed by a .09 micron Hammer will prove to be the usual upgrade pattern, anyway).

If they both stink, start thinking about Prescott. Intel will be happy to have you back.

Ed

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