With its Athlon processor successfully challenging Intel at the higher end of the PC processor market, Advanced Micro Devices returns to its roots in the low-end chip market with its announcement yesterday of a new processor named Duron for value-priced PCs.
AMD said the Duron, formerly code-named Spitfire, will begin shipping in volume in June, but the company won't disclose initial speed ratings or pricing.
The Duron is the successor to the company's K6-2 and K6-III desktop processors, said Mark Bode, a division marketing manager at AMD. The K6-2 is the company's highest-volume CPU and will likely remain on the market into next year.
The Duron - a Latin-derived name that means roughly "lasting unit" - will compete directly with Intel's Celeron processor, appearing in sub-$1,000 PCs. AMD won't disclose which PC vendors it expects to offer Duron-based systems to at launch, but Bode said users should start to see systems by the third quarter.
The company is releasing few details about the chip itself, which is based on the well-regarded Athlon design. The Duron will have a 200-MHz front-side bus, AMD's 3DNow technology and a full-speed, on-die Level 2 cache, Bode said. The company won't disclose the size of that Level 2 cache.
While AMD wouldn't offer speed or pricing details about the June launch, Bode said the first Duron will offer comparable speeds and competitive prices to Celeron products available at the same time.
What's in a name?
Announcing a new brand name for its latest processor is a smart move by AMD, said Nathan Brookwood, an analyst at Insight 64, a research firm in Saratoga, California. The move aims to let the company portray different attributes of the chip and cast off some of the limitations of the K6 brand, he said.
The K6 brand has long been associated with value pricing, but less so with great technology, Brookwood said.
AMD faces bigger problems than choosing a new name, Brookwood said. Chief among those could be convincing vendors to switch from the K-6 to the new chip, with its different motherboard requirements. "The transition could be complicated," he said.
Another potential difficulty is that Duron could cannibalise low-end Athlon sales, he said.
It's a problem Intel faced last year when its Celeron processor speeds approached the performance levels of its Pentium II chips, which hurt Pentium II sales. Intel now maintains a larger performance gap between its two processor lines, and AMD will have to work to do the same thing, Brookwood said.