How Many, When, and What?

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The Inquirer has some revised figures on expected desktop Hammer production.

Keep in mind when you view these figures that AMD’s quarterly production of CPUs over the past few years has been in the range of 6,000,000-8,000,000 CPUs a year.

Quarter ending Septemeber 30:

Socket 940
Socket 754

Negligible, but a couple weeks is hardly a fair indicator, so we’ll ignore it. Let’s see Christmas quarter, period ending December 31:

Socket 940
Socket 754

Still fairly minimal (and the Inquirer article says these numbers may be a bit too high):

Moving on, first quarter of 2004:

Socket 940
Socket 939
Socket 754

This is the first real quarter of sizable production.

Finally (and this is new information), the second quarter of 2004:

Socket 940
Socket 939
Socket 754

The chip suddenly crosses over into mainstream status.

So for the quarters that count, the ramp-up is (let’s assume a total CPU base of 7,000,000, since PC sales have been perking up a bit lately) :

4Q 2003
1Q 2004
Socket 754

These numbers are actually not too far out of wack from a normal CPU rollout (which is usually around 10%-25%-50%), though it’s rather heavily loaded towards the back end.

What else does it tell us?

1) Socket 940 is a negligible factor soon to be tossed, and the Opteron That Isn’t An Opteron will go back to being the Opteron That Is Back To Being An Opteron again.

It should be ignored.

2) AMD plans on a two-tier Hammer system, with socket 754 occupying the Duron slot. Well, maybe. There will be at least two types of socket 754, and maybe three. The 1Mb is already here. The 256K probably will show up next year. A 512K version may pop up in the middle of all this.

In short, more confusion.

3) The relatively small proportion of socket 939 systems compared to socket 754 systems (the proportion of Athlons/Durons were more like 50/50) seems to indicate that socket 939 will continue to command a premium price.

4) The numbers indicate that AMD expects people to start seriously buying some form of Hammer in the second quarter of 2004.

What doesn’t it tell us?

1) It doesn’t tell us what kind of processors will be made in the first quarter of 2004. Will they all be 130nm, or will some be 90nm? We think the 90nm processors ought to be a far better item to purchase.

2) What kind of socket 939 motherboards will be out there starting in that first quarter? Will they be AGP/DDR boards, or will they be PCI Express/DDR2 boards? If the first, when will the second type show up?

3) Even more to the point, at what point will Hammers incorporate a DDR2 memory interface?

The last may seem to you to be an extremely esoteric point, but it’s actually critical to anybody looking to possibly buy a system sooner or later, then plan to incrementally upgrade their computer system (like most in this audience).

Memory Controller Compatibility: A New Issue…


Memory Controller Compatibility: A New Issue

The integrated memory controller in Hammers brings up a new compatibility issue we haven’t seen before. Before Hammer, memory control was a mobo issue, the CPU didn’t care what you used. With Hammer, it does.

If you buy a desktop Hammer today, it is very uncertain how it would perform on tomorrow’s motherboards. The memory controller almost certainly can’t handle DDR2, which means the mobo would have to. If the mobo doesn’t do it, it probably won’t work at all. If it does, then it will work badly.

Hammer lives or dies based on that memory controller. Take it out of action, and you’ve crippled it.

When AMD gets around to DDR2 support in its processors, will such CPUs support both DDR and DDR2, or just one or the another?

You might recall that Athlons went through all kinds of motherboard revisions, with the new one generally leaving the prior one high and dry. In rapid succession, we had slot A, then the KX133, the KT133, then the KT133A (with AMD750s in the midst of all this).

Those were innocent times back then. We are older and wiser now.

Looking at all these factors, history could well repeat itself. At the least, if you have any thoughts of incremental upgrades of a Hammer system, you need to know these things before you buy.

The fear I have is that history is going to repeat itself, and we’re going to get hit with a rapid succession of CPU and mobos that don’t all play well or at all together.

AMD just can’t let these questions hang. If they expect corporations to start buying these things, they’re going to have to lay out what they plan to do in these areas, and corporations aren’t going to be too impressed with “We’re not telling you.”

What does that say about the company and what it thinks of its customers?

If they said something like, “Our 90nm chips will have both DDR and DDR2 (with speeds) support,” or “Hammer can only support one or the other standard. We will come out with a 90nm chip with DDR2 support when DDR2 gets reasonably priced,” that would be fine. People could then make informed opinions on what they’re buying and when they should buy it.

However, based on their track record, they’ll probably try to be slick, stay quiet, and when these sorts of compatibility problems come up, say, “Well, we never said it would work (or work well).”

Before you write me screaming how anti-AMD I am, I’m sorry, but God cursed me with a memory, and I believe in “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.”

So if you write me, you’d better tell me why it is better for people who want to know to not know, and take the chance of getting burned again. I most certainly will put your comments with your email address right next to them in an article, so others can share their opinion of your opinion.

(I’ve gotten enough emails like that in the past, saying “How dare you interrupt marketing?” or “So what if people get burned? It’s good for AMD.”)

For both would-be-writers and AMD, it’s a matter of being accountable for one’s comments and actions.

And really, what horrible thing am I asking for? I’m just asking for a little more information so you can make a better decision. I don’t even much care what the answers are; I just want answers.

Good, bad or indifferent, it’s better to know than not know. You can’t get fooled when you know.

How many times have you seen somebody in a forum say something like, “This didn’t work with that. I’m never buying from that company again!” Don’t you think that would happen here? Don’t you think it would hurt AMD in the long run to have that happen?


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