AMD on the inside

Infoworld’s latest issue features the microprocessor underdog AMD in a Special Report entitled, AMD: From follower to leader.

AMD played copycat to Intel’s successful x86 chip designs for a good part of twenty years, until Intel pulled their licensing agreement with them. Perhaps it was a blessing in disguise; when Intel took its ball and went home, AMD was forced to move up the value chain and innovate on its own.

Its debut original product, the Athlon, was the first to break the 1GHz speed barrier. My first AMD product was the Athlon XP, a chip that outran the Pentium 4 at two-thirds the cost. Since then, they’ve developed several unique technologies, including HyperTransport, DDR RAM, and the x86-64 bit instruction set.

It’s the last one that powers their Opteron and Athlon64 chips and winning approval in the server market. By being able to efficiently crunch both today’s 32-bit and the future’s 64-bit applications, it leaves Intel’s 64-bit only Itanium chip in the dust.

The interesting thing is how AMD managed to sneak into Intel’s “old boys club” of motherboard and OEM manufacturers:

In 1999, while AMD was suffering through one of the darkest periods in its history, the financially strapped semiconductor maker needed to get the word out about its new Pentium II-compatible processor, Athlon. So it did what any serious company would do: It enlisted the aid of PC gamers, overclockers, and build-it-yourself enthusiasts.

It reached out to selected small and startup sites that were snubbed by other hardware vendors. For many of these sites, it was AMD

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