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AMD: 'Intel moves don't worry us'

No technology for technology's sake

AMD isn't fazed by rival Intel's recent announcements of 45nm (nanomater) processing technology, and its deal to supply Xeon chips to Sun Microsystems, an AMD executive said yesterday.

Interviewed at the DesignCon 2007 conference, Steve Polzin, chief platform architect in the Computation Products Group at AMD, said his company in would be using 45nm transistor manufacturing technology in time. AMD has access to developments such as this through its participation in the ASTI alliance with Sony, Toshiba, and IBM. (AMD is the "A" in that abbreviation.)

"We have access to very similar technology that we'll be able to use in 45nm," Polzin said. "It's a weapon in our arsenal."

Polzin would not commit on a timeframe for when AMD would use 45nm, except to say that the company would do so "when it makes sense". AMD currently uses 65nm technology in its Opteron CPU line.

"Pushing technology for technology's sake is not what we do," said Polzin. The 45nm technology will be applicable from systems ranging from laptops to data centres, he said.

Intel plans to have its 45nm chips in production in the second half of this year. But Intel does not have a big jump on AMD, said analyst Mary Olsson, of Gary Smith EDA . The 45nm systems will not be heavily used for three to four years, Olsson said.

As for Sun's plan to use Intel CPUs after having relied on just AMD for x86 chips, Polzin said the arrangement was not surprising with Intel now leveraging AMD-championed technology in Xeon.

"We knew that one of the key factors that attracted Sun to AMD was the 64bit extensions to x86," said Polzin.

"AMD64 is great technology. Intel decided to copy it, so what the heck," Polzin said.

Sun as an AMD customer is free to choose whichever suppliers it wants, Polzin said. "Sun is one of our very valued customers" he said. The companies still work very closely together, he said, adding that he sat next to Mike Splain, a Sun senior vice president, at lunch yesterday.

During his presentation on Monday, Polzin cited the evolution of processors, which have grown from being 16bit to 32bit and then 64bit units. Multicore processors also have arrived, he noted. The company plans its quad-processor Opteron offerings for release in midyear. Eight-core chips are on the drawing board as well.

In 2009, the company plans to offer graphics processors and CPUs on the same chip as part of its Fusion initiative. This technology will be offered in the mobile Turion chip, Polzin said.

Both the CPU and graphics unit would be on a single die and have equal access to memory. Users could supplement their systems with high-performance graphics cards if they choose, according to Polzin.

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