RealTime IT News

AMD Replacing Duron with Sempron

AMD is preparing for a new entry-level chip family it hopes will help compete with Intel's Celeron processors.

The new brand -- AMD Sempron -- was designed for both desktop and mobile PCs and should be readily available in the second half 2004, the Sunnyvale, Calif.-based company said in a statement Monday.

The chip essentially replaces AMD's previous discount Duron family for what AMD calls "mature markets." The company confirmed it is still producing Duron cores to satisfy market needs in emerging countries like China and Latin America.

AMD would not discuss the details of the Sempron products, but its is believed it will be derived from K8 (Athlon64), with less cache and probably without 64-bit extensions that are the core function of the company's Athlon XP desktop and mobile processors.

"Sempron processors have been developed in response to the evolving day-to-day computing needs of home and business PC users," Bahr Mahony, Product Marketing Manager for AMD's Mobile Processor group, said in a statement. "Basic computing is no longer just about e-mail, Web browsing or word processing. Today it's also about downloading and playing music, sending pictures to family and friends, DVD playback or streaming video -- at home, in the office or on the go."

AMD said its Athlon 64 processors will now fit into what it calls "mainstream" systems. The company says the chips, now making a transition from their old 754-pin to a new 939-pin socket or form factor, will continue to combine outstanding 32-bit performance with capability for tomorrow's 64-bit applications.

The Athlon XP and XP-M -- widely expected to move from their venerable Socket A to the 754-pin layout, with a 32-bit-only, smaller-cache variant of the Athlon 64 design, later this year -- strike a more moderate price/performance balance. Those chips are expected to include AMD's Enhanced Virus Protection -- sometimes called No Execute or NX -- in conjunction with Microsoft's upcoming Windows XP Service Pack 2.

So why not call it Duron XP or Duron Next? Kevin Krewell, principal analyst for In-Stat/MDR, said AMD may have been concerned that Duron's brand value had deteriorated too far and the company needed a new brand to replace it as it begins to create products derived from its Hammer/K8 architecture.

"I did have a debate with the AMD representative about NX support, which led me to believe AMD considers this a premium enhancement (not for the value segment), which I totally disagreed with," Krewell told internetnews.com. "As AMD has not announced any Sempron details yet, I hope AMD keeps the NX-bit in K8-derived Sempron products, even in the value processor market, as I don't believe that protection against exploits of Microsoft vulnerabilities should not be limited to just premium processors."