AMD to launch Opteron in April, Athlon64 delayed

AMD to launch Opteron in April, Athlon64 delayed

Advanced Micro Devices has ended speculation over the launch dates for its upcoming chips and announced that the 64-bit Opteron server chip will be introduced on April 22 in New York.

However, the 64-bit chip for desktop computers will not arrive on schedule. The company has also developed a 64-bit chip based on its Hammer architecture. Designed for desktop computers, the Athlon64 chip won't appear until at least September. The mobile version of Athlon64 will launch at the same time.

"Launching in September allows us to better align the processor with 64-bit operating systems and software," AMD spokesperson, Catherine Abbinanti, said.

Microsoft released Windows XP 64-bit Edition in 2001 but it was tailored for Intel's Itanium processor that uses a different instruction set than the Athlon64. AMD and Microsoft announced they were working together on a 64-bit version of Windows for the Hammer architecture in April of last year.

Microsoft's next server release, Windows Server 2003, is expected to become available in April. A 64-bit version will also be produced.

AMD said it would introduce its long-awaited Barton core on February 10. The Barton core for the AMD Athlon XP desktop processor features 512K bytes of level 2 on-chip cache, double the 256K bytes of L2 cache on current Athlon XP chips based on the Thoroughbred core.

The first Barton chip, the AMD Athlon XP processor 3000+, would be introduced in February, the company said. Another Barton chip, the Athlon XP processor 3200+, would follow in mid-2003.

The Barton core offers users a performance increase, since the expanded cache allows for more data storage closer to the CPU. Processor design for the 64-bit chips also would allow for faster computing, but to get the performance boost, applications must be built specifically to take advantage of the new architecture.

The benefits delivered by the Barton core allowed AMD to satisfy users' demands for highest performance possible as they awaited desktop 64-bit operating systems, Abbinanti said.

The launch of the Athlon64, formerly known as Clawhammer, and the Barton chips has been delayed once before - in September 2002. Barton will be released to schedule but the Athlon64 was supposed to have been available for sale in the first quarter of 2003, and available in systems by late in the second quarter.

Barton would be available worldwide when it is launched in February, Abbinanti said. A check of industry price guide revealed that several distributors were already selling an Athlon XP 3000+ processor for about $US640 in quantities of 1000 units.

AMD has been counting on the Opteron and Athlon64 to help the company reach profitability in 2003. The chips incorporate 64-bit extensions to the widely used x86 instruction set, as opposed to the RISC (reduced instruction set computing) architecture used in 64-bit chips from Sun Microsystems and IBM, and the EPIC (explicitly parallel instruction computing) architecture used by Intel's 64-bit Itanium 2 processor.

This means the chip can run existing 32-bit applications developed on x86 chips from Intel and AMD. The other instruction sets require code to be ported or a slower emulation mode to run older applications.

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