AMD has truly made 2000 into a banner year for them.  Amidst skepticism as to whether or not they would be able to overshadow their numerous shortcomings and actually make the Athlon a successful alternative to Intel’s flagship processors, AMD has gone above and beyond the expectations of virtually everyone in this industry.  If you had talked about AMD as being a performance leader back at the release of their K6-III processor last year you would’ve been ridiculed.  However, with the most recent statistics showing that AMD has almost 40% of the performance desktop market, 24% of the market belonging to Athlon CPUs alone, it is obvious that things have turned around for AMD. 

However, when looking at the performance advantage the Athlon holds over the Pentium III in most applications and games, you quickly realize that AMD hasn’t earned its piece of the pie based on sheer performance.  In many cases, the performance difference between an Athlon and a Pentium III came down to a few percent, and in some cases the Pentium III even came out on top.  So why has AMD had such a wonderful year while we started out our article on Intel’s future by saying the exact opposite?  It truly comes down to the issue of execution and their roadmap. 

For the first time in quite a while AMD had executed with near perfect precision.  They were the first to the 0.18-micron process and the first to release a number of clock frequencies including the landmark 1GHz.  Just less than a month ago AMD launched their 760 chipset which brought Double Data Rate (DDR) SDRAM down to the performance PC level, and it won’t take long, as you’ll soon see, to bring that down to even lower cost price points. 

Three days ago we brought you a look at Intel’s plans for the remainder of this year and their roadmap for 2001.  And just yesterday we gave the keystone to their roadmap, the Pentium 4 processor, a very thorough look.  With almost all of Intel’s cards on the table, it’s time to take a look at AMD’s hand and see what they’re holding. 

Before we dive into AMD’s roadmap let’s point out a few very important topics to keep in mind regarding the future of both Intel and AMD:

  • Intel’s roadmap is heavily dependent on two things: the execution of the Pentium 4 and the ramping of its clock speed.  If either one of these things fails to come through, then Intel will be in a very unfortunate situation. 
  • As we discovered in our Pentium 4 Review, the processor itself requires quite a bit of attention for its true potential to be seen.  SSE2 optimizations are almost a requirement to see the Pentium 4 excel in quite a few applications.
  • On the AMD side of things, the Athlon is running wonderfully, and when combined with a DDR platform its performance at 1.2GHz puts the Pentium 4 to shame.  Unfortunately the Athlon processors of today are simply getting too hot, and at 1.2GHz the Athlon already puts out more heat than the Pentium 4 at 1.5GHz. 
  • The Duron is still not selling as well as it should be in North America.  Apparently the sales in Europe are incredible, however the Duron is still in need of a truly low cost platform to run on. 

With that in mind, let’s take a look at how AMD’s future stacks up.

The buck stops here: 1200MHz
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