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Monday, June 3, 2002
On Hardware

Year of the Hammer for AMD
Peeyush Agnihotri

Rahul Singh
Rahul Singh

THE underdog is getting more aggressive in the integrated circuit and processor segment. AMD (Advanced Micro Devices), one of the suppliers of integrated circuits that plays second fiddle to the global giant, Intel, has upped its ante to meet competitive and marketing challenges, both globally and in India.

AMD, a $ 4-billion US-based company that is better known to be living in Intel's shadow, opened its office in April last year at India. The company currently boasts of Athlon XP and Duron processors, the base for high performance PCs and value PCs, respectively. Though not officially endorsed the company holds nearly 14 per cent market share in this country.

"Since 1969, AMD had been acting as a runner-up in the processor market. For 25 years, we produced chips according to technology licensed by Intel. Things started changing in 1994 when we introduced the K5 series made through our own technology. Then we launched K62, a contemporary of Pentium II. After that in 1999, we produced Athlon, the seventh generation processor and after that, there was no looking back," claims Rahul Singh (31), senior marketing specialist, AMD Far East Limited.


"In fact, 1999 had been a watershed year for us. With Athlon we gained the market share and crossed the 1 GHz frequency barrier. In October 2001 we made some architectural changes in Athlon XP and that coincided with Windows XP launch," he adds.

Last year there were 2,000 lay-offs in AMD worldwide and most of them were in Malaysia and the USA. So what had been the company's performance? "AMD closed the FY 2001 with 22 per cent global market share as per Gartner, up by 5 per cent as compared to the previous year. All this despite recession," Rahul says, asserting that Athlon has outperformed Pentium technology. "Our DDR RAM is expected to become the industry standard now," he adds.

Critics say that AMD doesn't spend much on research and development as compared to Intel. "This is wrong. Intel is six to seven times bigger than us. Despite this, we patented 1,055 products in 2000 and 1,090 products in 2001. Given our budgetary limitations vis--vis Intel, we are innovating more than them," he says and alleges that Intel ramps up the clock speed while AMD doesn't.

AMD that has traditionally kept its prices 30 per cent below Intel has always been known to be a 'substitute' product. Its market share is largely confined to the consumer segment (30.6 per cent, according to Dataquest). Would there be any change in marketing strategies now?

"Yes. I personally feel that India would remain the assemblers market for long time to come and price and channel of purchase would remain crucial factors. So, we have started focusing on OEMs (Original Equipment Manufacturers) like Wipro, Vintron and Compaq and have got acceptance too," he says.

Rahul, a science graduate and management postgraduate, avers that the centre of attention has now shifted from metro cities to other states and cities though there had been saturation in the home PC segment. "This year we would lay special emphasis on the 64-bit processor segment, popularly known as the Hammer family," he says.

The Hammer family of processors will differ from other AMD chips - and other Intel processors - in that they will be able to run conventional 32-bit applications found on Windows PCs as well as 64-bit applications.