AMD Carves Out Some Territory In Core Wars

Includes: AMD, INTC
by: Larry Dignan

AMD (NASDAQ:AMD) added a triple-core processor to its desktop roadmap and could find itself with some open field in the core wars. The processor, the AMD Phenom, has three brains–computational cores on a single die of silicon.

AMD says it plans to offer the chip beginning in the first quarter of 2008. AMD Phenom quad-core processors remain on schedule, says AMD.

So why bother with a triple-core chip? That’s easy. It squeezes Intel’s (NASDAQ:INTC) low-end dual-core lineup.

Think about it. You’re buying a desktop. You have a set budget. A quad-core is out of reach so what’s better, three brains or two?

From a strategy perspective, AMD’s triple core offering makes sense since it carves out some open field. An open field means you have more pricing power that can be used to boost average selling prices.

Ed Burnette quotes Simon Solotko, desktop brand manager at AMD:

In general, we will position this product above more-or-less all existing dual-core products in-market. And that will be borne out by many of the performance benefits which we’ll demonstrate. I think that in general, it’s a smart insertion point that has the opportunity, frankly, to help AMD in the space where, over the past twelve months, we’ve been relatively weak - which is high-end dual-core.

Hard to argue with that logic.

Meanwhile, there’s plenty of room for a triple-core processor. Mercury Research reckons that quad-core processors accounted for less than two percent of desktop shipments in the second quarter. There’s clearly room for a little more multi-core love.

AMD (all resources) says the Phenom will allow for more multitasking and multi-threaded applications. All true, but the decision at the point of purchase will be something like this: You can’t afford a quad-core, a triple core is a little more expensive than a dual core so you’ll go for the three brains. The rest of the performance argument–Direct Connect Architecture, integrated memory, L3 cache etc.–will make the average PC buyer glaze over. If you can’t afford four brains, three is better than two.