AMD steams ahead; Intel falters again

— 2:12 AM on April 23, 2000

Something most analysts would not have predicted months ago just happened. AMD has sold completely out of both its low and mid-range K6-X and top-of-the-line Athlon CPUs for the second quarter of 2000. Why'? In part, because PC makers and consumers have realized AMD CPUs are at least on par with—or in some cases superior to—Intel CPUs, especially in price-to-performance ratios.

Also, Intel faltered in a major way for the sixth time in less than a year. To recap: First, they blew off PC manufacturers and hardware enthusiasts by adopting the unwanted, overly hyped, and expensive Rambus memory architecture.

Second, in the November 1999-January 2000 period, Intel had major troubles rolling out the nascent Rambus memory technology. They had to cancel the launch of new systems based on the technology the very week of the launch—a move sure to have cost millions and giving its chipset competitor, VIA technologies, a leg up in the industry. Major manufacturers like Micron adopted Via's133A chipset, which supports PC133 SDRAM, instead of Intel’s unwanted Rambus-oriented 820 chipset.

Third, Intel paper launched high-end CPU after CPU (800MHz-1000MHz) in order to seem on the cutting edge and/or keep up with AMD, who could actually supply the CPUs as promised.

Fourth, Intel had CPU supply problems with their CPU lines for the whole month of February, causing many PC makers like Dell and Gateway to take pretty big hits in their profits.

Fifth, Intel and the Taiwanese motherboard manufacturers it supplies had major problems with the 820 motherboards that use a Memory Translator Hub (MTH). The MTH delivered poor, uncompetitive performance using SDRAM compared to the two-year-old Intel 440BX chipset.

Finally, Intel has just delayed the launch of its new Celeron 633 and 667MHz CPU lines, contributing to AMD’s windfall of selling out of CPUs in a regularly slow sales period. These higher speed grade Celerons potentially could have allowed Intel to take some of the wind from AMD's sails, but the company has particularly tight supplies of profitable 700MHz and faster chips due to inadequate fab capacity.

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