Advanced Micro Devices (AMD),will introduce the first mobile versions of its K6-2 processor this week, the fastest of which -- for a short while at least-sports an industry -- leading clock speed of 333MHz.
The new processors, also available at 300MHz and 266MHz, might not lead directly to lower priced notebooks, but will almost certainly crank up the level of performance available to users at current prices, said Nathan Brookwood, principal at Insight 64, a consultancy in California.
The K6-2 includes AMD's 3DNow technology, designed to boost the performance of graphics and multimedia applications. It also features a 100MHz front side bus, designed to move data at high speed between the processor and the computer's memory.
The key distinction from the desktop K6-2 is that the mobile chip uses considerably less power-an essential feature for battery-driven notebooks.
Toshiba America Information Systems will announce plans this week to use the mobile K6-2s in Satellite notebooks that will be sold in Japan. In the coming months, the notebooks will be sold in other regions, said Dana Krelle, vice president of marketing for AMD's Computation Products Group, in a press briefing Tuesday.
The Toshiba deal is significant for AMD because the Japanese vendor was one of the last big PC makers to use only Intel chips in its products, apart from direct sellers Dell Computer and Gateway, Brookwood at Insight 64 noted.
The 333MHz version of the mobile K6-2 will find its way into systems priced at $US2499 and under, AMD's Krelle said. "Almost undoubtedly some will find their way into notebooks in the sub-$US2000 arena," he added.
The new products will turn up the heat on AMD rival Intel, whose mobile chips currently top out at 300MHz. Intel's chips also presently don't include an equivalent to AMD's 3DNow graphics technology, and use a slower, 66MHz bus.
Perhaps even more importantly, Intel's chips are more expensive to buy. The 333 K6-2 is priced at $US299 in 1,000-unit quantities, AMD said. Intel's fastest mobile Pentium II, the 300MHz version, has a list price of $US637, Brookwood at Insight 64 said.
But AMD won't enjoy its performance advantage for long.
On January 25, analysts say, Intel will crank up the speed of its mobile Pentium II processors with versions running at 333MHz and 366MHz. Codenamed Dixon, the chips will sport a hefty 256KB of performance enhancing on-chip Level 2 cache memory.
AMD won't match those specifications until it releases its K6-3 processor later in the first half of 1999. The K6-3, dubbed Sharptooth, will also feature 256KB of Level 2 cache, AMD has said.
In the meanwhile, AMD said strong sales of its K6-2 PC chips helped the company post record revenues for its fourth fiscal quarter, although earnings fell short of analysts' expectations.
AMD's revenues for the quarter, ended December 17, were $US788.8 million, up 29 per cent from a year ago. Net income was $US22.3 million, or 15 cents per share, compared to a net loss of $US12.3 million, or nine cents per share, in the same quarter last year.
Egged on by strong PC sales in the latter half of 1998, analysts bullishly predicted the company would post a profit of 18 cents per share for the quarter.
AMD's revenues for the full year were $US2.5 billion, also a record for the company and an improvement on 1997 revenues of $US2.4 billion. However, AMD reported a net loss for 1998 of $US104 million, or 72 cents per share, compared with a loss of $US21 million or 15 cents per share in 1997.