AMD: Films, music highlight promise of 64 bits

Advanced Micro Devices President and Chief Executive Officer Hector Ruiz used his Tuesday morning keynote address at Comdex to demonstrate what 64-bit technology can accomplish for both businesses and consumers, as he challenged the IT industry to stop delivering technology for technology's sake.

Several companies discussed their commitment to current and future 64-bit technologies using Athlon processors, including Gibson Guitar Corp., Epic Games Inc., Northeast Utilities, and China Basic Education Software Co. Ltd.

IBM's DB2 database was demonstrated running on the forthcoming Opteron processor. It took IBM two days to port DB2 to the Opteron technology, which will help large DB2 data warehouse users perform faster queries, said Pat Selinger, an IBM fellow, during the presentation.

The IBM demonstration drew the interest of one attendee. "We have DB2 running on IBM mainframes that I'd love to port (to the Opteron's x86-64 instruction set)," said Liz Edgington, IT manager for the County of Orange in California. "I hadn't really considered AMD before, but its something to think about," she said.

The speech also featured demos of workstations and PCs using the desktop version of the 64-bit Hammer technology, which is now called Athlon 64, Ruiz said. JAK Films, the production company founded by Star Wars creator George Lucas, demonstrated how 64-bit technology improves previsualization techniques, and Nvidia Corp. used the newly christened Athlon 64 and its new GeForce FX graphics chip to render a video of a highly-detailed shapely sprite.

"I was skeptical when I came in: Why talk about 64-bit? But I was amazed by the Nvidia rendering; that's great stuff," said J.C. Dorng, who attended the speech, and works at Cupertino, California start-up Ascendlink Corp. "Suddenly you see the difference technology makes," he said.

"Information technology is no longer a distinct business; it is becoming the DNA of many industries," Ruiz said. This gives new technologies an "enormous opportunity to influence industries," he said.

AMD will deploy technology with a customer focus, delivering new technology only if there is a customer demand for it, Ruiz said. As transistors grow even more numerous and inexpensive, they will find their way into many devices, but AMD will make sure that the technology fulfills customers' needs, he said.

A number of companies have announced their support for AMD's forthcoming 64-bit processors. Covalent Technologies Inc. and Red Hat Inc. announced Monday they will offer a version of the popular and free Apache Web server software for the Opteron processors. Apache is based on the Linux operating system, and runs on more than half of the world's Web servers, AMD said in a briefing Monday. The companies are demonstrating the technology on the show floor.

Additionally, several makers of hardware components for supercomputers are working on developing tools to interconnect supercomputers powered by the Opteron processor, and enterprise management software from Altiris Inc., Novell Inc., and PowerQuest Corp. will support the Opteron, AMD said in press releases Monday.

Ruiz's speech ended with Ruiz and Gibson Guitar Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Henry Juskiewicz awkwardly strumming Gibson Les Paul guitars backed by a full band recorded and played through an AMD Athlon 64 workstation. The two executives pantomimed the chords to Bob Dylan's "Knockin' on Heaven's Door," rebranded as "AMD's Knockin' on 64."

The highlight was saved for last, with former Guns 'N Roses lead guitarist Slash launching into a real guitar solo over the recording, amid a rock concert-style light show and an AMD video presentation.

However, AMD's financial situation is less harmonious. The company filed a prospectus with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission Tuesday about a $300 million offering of senior convertible notes, which can be converted into AMD's common stock, it announced in a release. Analysts have said AMD needed to not only cut costs through recent layoffs, but seek additional financing to assure it remains afloat through the end of 2003.

(Gillian Law contributed with this report.).

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