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AMD faces pummelling at analyst meeting

Tough questions planned for New York event

While analysts will be looking for more detailed guidance on when AMD expects to ship quad-core Opteron chips in volume, they will also be looking for information on the next version of the quad-core Opteron, called Shanghai. AMD promised to ship Shanghai during the middle of 2008, but the company has yet to produce working samples of the chip.

"We will have initial samples also in January. I'm fairly confident that those puppies are going to boot, and then we can have a follow-up conference call and I'll tell you, 'The sucker is booting'," said Mario Rivas, the executive vice president of AMD's Computing Products Group, responding to a question about Shanghai during a recent interview with CRNN.

Whether that means AMD will release Shanghai in mid-2008 as promised remains to be seen.

Shanghai is a 45-nanometre 'shrink' of the problematic Barcelona chip, which is produced using a 65-nanometre process. These numbers represent the average size of the smallest feature that can be created on a chip, and smaller is generally considered better.

Moving to a more advanced production process offers chip makers several benefits, such as reducing unit production costs by making the chip smaller or adding more features, such as additional on-chip cache. But the move to a more advanced process also carries risks, such as the possibility of lower production yields that can result in limited availability or chips that run at lower clock speeds than expected.

Along with these issues looming over AMD, there are questions about the future of Hector Ruiz, the company's CEO and chairman. As head of the company, Ruiz ultimately bears responsibility for the company's recent performance problems and the impending write down of goodwill from the ATI acquisition. For months, there has been speculation within the industry that Ruiz would be forced to step down from his current position.

However, that's unlikely to happen, according to a Reuters report citing comments made by Ruiz in a television interview to be aired by CNBC Europe later today. During that interview, Ruiz named AMD President and COO Dirk Meyer as his successor, but scotched speculation he plans to step down next year, the report said.

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