Speaking With Forked Tongue

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The beginning of this article says it all:

AMD said it would be switching the whole of its family to dual cores at least a year before Intel managed to shift its uniprocessors to dual core systems.

Hmmm. Dual-cores go from Tiffany to Walmart in the blink of an eye next year.

Or does it?

What Does This Mean (And Not Mean)?

The key word to this statement is “whole of its family.” That’s a very odd way to say, “all of our processors,” and when AMD phrases something oddly, you can bet your last dollar there’s a reason for it.

Yes, the Inquirer article uses the term “all . . . its single core processors,” but I greatly suspect that’s a misinterpretation of that odd phrase, and I’ll explain why.

About a year from now, AMD’s new fab is due to start pumping out 65nm chips. Right around the same time, socket M2 will begin to be introduced. It seems eminently reasonable to believe that these dual cores will all or almost entirely all 65nm socket M2 chips.

No fab starts at full blast. AMD will be doing well to get its new fab mostly near full production by the end of 2006/early 2007.

It makes no sense to think AMD is going to stop 90nm Dresden production while the new fab gets up to speed. It makes little sense to think Dresden is going to shift completely over to dual-core in 2006; if they don’t want to make a lot of big die-expensive dual-cores now, why would they want to do it next year? The economics remain the same.

No less that Hector Ruiz has said that AMD will go through a “phased transition” to socket M2 in 2006, one that will take the rest of 2006 to mostly complete.

This doesn’t mean they won’t make more 90nm duallies than they plan for 2005, but if for no other reason, all those Third World countries AMD wants to sell to probably don’t have duallies high on their priority list.

What I believe the statement means is that all the types of the socket M2 family (budget and mainstream desktop, notebook server) will be at least available in dual core. Maybe that means all M2s will be dual-core, maybe it doesn’t. Given AMD’s desire to make inroads into Third World computing, I really doubt they’ll refuse to sell single-core M2s if asked. Intel will make single-core 65nm CPUs in 2006; it would be foolish for AMD not to do so also.

“Family” is a very handy term to have around. AMD says that it will shift “the whole of its family to dual cores” a year before Intel will. This seems like a very odd comment to make given that Intel is in the lead both for getting dual-cores out the door and 65nm processing, and plans to make duallies mainstream by about mid-2006.

However, Intel doesn’t plan on making dual-core Celerons right away, probably won’t until 2007. By having some sort of dual-core Sempron available a year from now, AMD can claim that they will “beat” Intel by a year in bringing “the whole family” into dually status.

What To Think?

What a tangled web some people weave. I wish AMD would put as much effort thinking out their processor strategy as spinning them.

For those of you who really have their hearts set on dual-cores from AMD at a fairly reasonable price with a real chance of an upgrade, you’ll probably be best off waiting for socket M2. They’ll include DDR2 and probably will be cheaper than anything you’ll see this year.

Yes, if you have one of the earlier (or maybe not so early) XP systems and you want to do something about it, this is not what you want to hear. However, even at best, I don’t think you can hope for a fairly affordable dual until early next year, and maybe not even then.

You’re probably going to have to start thinking about some interim solution to tide you over for a year/eighteen months.



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