AMD vs. Intel

Chip Wars: AMD, long the oppressed rebel force in the chip industry, managed to launch an attack on the Intel Death Star

Advanced Micro Devices deployed Darth Vader and a platoon of Storm Troopers to greet visitors to a Barcelona launch event at Lucasfilm in September, but it was Intel that was assigned the role of the "Evil Empire."

AMD, long the oppressed rebel force in the chip industry, managed to launch an attack on the Intel Death Star with the introduction of its 64-bit Opteron processors in 2003.

Opteron ran 64-bit applications and legacy 32-bit applications without the drag on performance noted in Intel's Itanium processors. AMD upped the ante further in 2005 with the introduction of its first dual-core Opteron processors that doubled the performance of single-core Opterons.

The first chink in Intel's armor appeared in the second quarter of that year when, as Mercury Research reported, Intel's market share slipped to 82.5 percent, from 82.8 percent in the year ago quarter, while AMD's inched up to 15.7 percent from 15.6 percent.

AMD further provoked Intel by running a newspaper ad challenging Intel to a processor duel, using the image of an AMD chip in a boxing ring.

AMD's share rose to 25.3 percent in the fourth quarter of 2006, while Intel's fell to 74.4 percent. Intel, while perhaps surprised, didn't take long to retaliate. Intel (2006 revenue, US$35 billion) financed a price war with AMD (US$5.6 billion) that pushed AMD into a pool of red ink, losing US$2.1 billion over the last four quarters.

But AMD also fought back with a gavel, suing Intel in 2006 in US District Court on grounds of antitrust violations, a suit that's still pending.

But Intel also matched AMD on the product side, introducing a dual-core Xeon processor in 2005, and regained the upper hand on AMD with its first quad-core Xeon in early 2007. AMD hastened to point out that all Intel did to make a quad-core was squeeze two dual-cores onto one piece of silicon. AMD introduced its "native" quad-core Barcelona at that Lucasfilm event Sept. 10.

On the eve of the Barcelona launch, Bruce Shaw, AMD's director of server and workstation product marketing, said AMD may be battle-weary but is still in the fight: "If you look at the market as a whole it's hard not to wax poetic about [how] we've brought competition to the market just by being here."

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