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AMD readies new mobile processors

Company hopes to dethrone Centrino package with Turion chip

AMD is expected to unveil Turion, its new brand for mobile processors in thin-and-light notebooks, today at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas.

Turion is the name AMD has chosen to represent its notebook processors that will consume 35W or less of power. These processors are based on the same architecture as its Opteron and Athlon 64 processors, with an integrated memory controller and 64-bit extensions to the x86 instruction set.

The company's first public mention of the brand took place on Thursday evening at an event in Las Vegas. A formal announcement will be made today.

AMD made significant progress against industry leader Intel in the desktop and notebook markets in 2004, but found the notebook market more difficult. Intel's Pentium M processor, combined with its Centrino marketing strategy, has attracted legions of notebook buyers looking for desktop-like performance in a thin-and-light notebook.

Most of AMD's success has come in full-sized notebooks, the desktop-replacement models that US consumers have bought in huge quantities over the past few years. But consumers are increasingly looking for lighter notebooks with better battery performance, which requires a processor with sophisticated power management technology.

At the company's analyst meeting in November, AMD said it was working on new processor designs for thin-and-light notebooks that would compete head-to-head with the Pentium M. Those chips will carry the Turion brand and be available in the first half of 2005, said Bahr Mahony, a marketing manager in AMD's Mobile Business Segment.

With Turion, AMD has opted not to follow Intel's platform strategy, in which the Centrino mobile technology is the public face of the Pentium M processor, the 855 chip set and the Intel Pro/Wireless Wi-Fi chips. AMD believes that PC vendors will prefer the option of using chip sets or wireless chips from multiple sources, picking the best product for cost or performance considerations.

Intel's strategy of marketing the package, rather than the individual components, has proven such a hit that the company plans to market desktop technology in the same way. However, Centrino is more than just a marketing strategy at an architectural level, according to Mooly Eden, vice president and director of marketing at Intel's Mobile Platforms Group.

The processor, chip set and wireless chip were designed to work together from the early stages of development and have several features that components from other vendors could not support, such as power management technology, he said in an interview at CES.

When Intel first unveiled the Centrino brand in 2002, such integration was more necessary than it is today, says Nathan Brookwood, principal analyst with Insight 64. Wi-Fi was a nascent technology that was not always reliable, and it made sense that Intel would insist upon designing all of the major notebook components for interoperability, he says.

However, Wi-Fi is now familiar to most prospective notebook buyers, thanks in large part to Intel's marketing budget, Brookwood says. Consumers have insisted upon better Wi-Fi performance and interoperability, and most interoperability problems have been worked out thanks to rigorous testing by PC vendors, he says.

AMD will release further architectural details about its Turion processors when they are released later this year.


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