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Issue of March 2003 
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AMD set for 64-bit computing this year

AMD will embark on the 64-bit computing wagon this year with the launch of its Opteron processor on April 22. Desktop and notebook versions of this 64-bit chip will debut later this year. But AMD isn't a first mover in this area, and it needs a good strategy to sell these new processors.

AMD says it isn't worried about not having the first mover advantage in the 64-bit computing space. It is confident that its 64-bit chips will sell on account of their backward compatibility for 32-bit applications. AMD will sell Opteron using the 'ease of migration' and 'low migration cost' cards.

"We are not asking customers to re-design all their application software for the 64-bit platform. We are not asking developers to re-develop everything, for it involves a lot of costs," said Sanjeev Keskar, Country Manager, AMD Far East Limited (India).

Arvind Chandrashekar, Technical Specialist, AMD India says, "Enterprises have already spent heavily on 32-bit software licenses. Now suddenly asking them to go 64-bit would mean additional costs for new licenses. They will have to port their applications and data to the 64-bit environment—and that costs money. Opteron is the easiest way out for anyone looking to migrate to the 64-bit platform. No porting or recompiling is required for most applications. If at all it's needed, there are tools that achieve this quickly."

While Opteron is primarily for servers, a desktop version (called Athlon-64) is also expected. And since 'desknotes' (notebooks with the power of desktops) are fast gaining in popularity, there is a possibility of a notebook version too. Both these chips are likely to be launched in September 2003.

What AMD needs to do
While 64-bit applications for servers have been available on the RISC platform, AMD will need to step up its developer programs so that enough business applications (for servers) are available by the time the chip is launched.
Besides servers, AMD could also explore other areas like workstations and gaming systems. Since chips based on 64-bit architecture have larger memory addressability (as large as 16 exabytes), these are also ideal for graphics workstations; AMD has an opportunity in the low-cost workstations space. Increased realism in gaming software demands more powerful gaming machines. Systems such as Nintendo 64 and Sony PlayStation2 already use 64-bit processors. This is another opportunity for AMD (perhaps for Microsoft's Xbox?)

AMD also needs to develop its channel in India and educate distributors, resellers and customers about its products. In fact it is already working full-time to strengthen its presence here, and develop the channel. When it set up operations here in 2001 it did not have any OEMs for desktop systems. In fact there were no AMD powered PCs available in the domestic market at that time.

"Today we have four OEMs who are driving enterprise business for desktops. The four are HP/Compaq, Wipro, PCS and Vintron. We don't have any OEM partner for servers and workstations yet, but we are talking to several OEMs here," said Keskar.

AMD also has system integrators who are promoting its Athlon MP solutions in the SME market. "Since we launched Athlon MP in August 2002 we are driving dual-processor systems through the system integrators," informed Keskar.
AMD's system integrators (SI) focus on niche segments like architects, film studios, and graphic designers. The SI puts together a solution built specifically to the customer's requirement. This solution comprises AMD validated components like motherboards, power supplies, cabinets etc. It also includes specific software—for example, graphics software for a studio. In that sense, AMD prefers to call these SI's as 'Solution Integrators.' AMD also has three distributors in India for desktop and server processors: Tech Pacific, Avnet Max and Intraco.

- Brian Pereira

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