AMD Delay Favors Mainstream Over High-End Parts
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AMD's track record for delays is becoming a real detriment to the company. The latest example is the announcement it plans a reshuffling of its desktop product release schedule, which led to some doom and gloom assessments in the blogosphere, but, according to AMD, is not that big a deal.
The company had planned to release the quad-core AMD Phenom 9700 (2.4 Ghz) and 9900 (2.6 GHz) chips this quarter, along with the three other Phenom models AMD has already released, the 9500, 9600 and 9600 Black Edition (which is specifically for the overclocking market).
Instead, the company decided to put the two faster chips at the back of the line and release the Phenom 9000e, a low power, 65-watt processor, and the triple-core Phenom 8000 in the first quarter.
There were assumptions on blogs and enthusiast sites alike that this might be due to the errata bug that halted delivery of the Quad Core Opteron, or perhaps manufacturing problems. None of this was true, according to an AMD spokesperson.
"This gets sort of frustrating. It's a prioritization based on feedback from OEMs that want triple core for the mainstream market, which represents more than 70 percent of the market," Jake Whitman of AMD told InternetNews.com. "It's an adjustment to our schedule based on feedback from our customers."
Whitman said the enthusiast market is "incredibly important to us. That's why we added that Black Edition part in Q4. That wasn't originally on the roadmap." But the enthusiast market, made up of gamers and power users, only makes up less than five percent of AMD's market, although those chips tend to go into very high-end, decked out systems.
The Black Edition chip is unlocked, meaning users can tinker with its multiplier. A CPU's speed is determined on its clock speed and multiplier. A 2.4 Ghz chip, for instance, has a 200 MHz clock and a multiplier of 12. Overclockers experiment with the clock speed and other things, like voltage and how much cooling they can manage, to increase performance.
The unlocked Black Edition chip means enthusiasts can change the multiplier to 13, 13.5, or higher along with changing the clock speed to see how much performance they can extract out of a chip without turning it into a charcoal briquette.
AMD has not disclosed the speeds of either the Phenom 9000e nor the Phenom 8000 but will as they approach launch, said Whitman.
In-Stat senior analyst Jim McGregor agreed that AMD was smart to prioritize but wonders why it didn't release all of the chips at once. "That's the volume part of the segment. It's a natural choice, but if they have the mainstream part, why didn't they come out with all of them at once? There have been so many delays someone at AMD should have been axed by now," he said.
Intel did stagger the launch of Penryn to a degree, launching with the high-end Xeon and desktop parts first, but at CES this week it hit the market with a flood of products, 16 in all. AMD is launching chips two or three at a time when confidence in the company is being continuously shaken.
"There's no excuse for launching one part of the platform and not another. There's no excuse for not going great guns. You better let the world know you're back," said McGregor.