AMD starts shipping 90-nanometer chips

Advanced Micro Devices' 90-nanometer notebook processors are on their way to customers, according to a research note published by...

Advanced Micro Devices' 90-nanometer notebook processors are on their way to customers, according to a research note published by Goldman Sachs & Co.

Analysts from Goldman met with AMD chairman, president and chief executive officer Hector Ruiz recently, who said that shipments have begun of the company's 90-nanometer notebook processors. Desktop processor shipments will follow in a month, and server processors will leave AMD's factories after that.

An AMD spokesman said the company remains on track to deliver 90-nanometer processors in the third quarter.

Chip makers need about four to six weeks of lead time between the date processors are shipped to PC customers and the launch date of the products based on those processors. PC suppliers usually do not like to launch products until they are satisfied they will have a sufficient number of chips on hand to meet demand.

AMD's first 90-nanometer mobile processor is code-named Oakville, and is expected to arrive in the third quarter. Oakville is based on the Mobile Athlon 64 architecture, and is expected to be a low-voltage part, according to public roadmaps published on AMD's website. Winchester is the code-name of the 90-nanometer version of the desktop Athlon 64 processor.

The 90-nanometer transition has been rocky for several chip companies, as is usually the case when manufacturers shrink the features of their chips when moving from one process generation to another.

Intel experienced delays with both its desktop and mobile processors in the first quarter, but is now producing more working chips that it had expected. IBM has struggled all year bringing the PowerPC970 FX to the 90-nanometer process, prompting several product delays at Apple Computer, IBM's main customer for that chip.

AMD believes it has avoided some of the problems faced by other chipmakers because of its use of SOI (silicon on insulator) technology. SOI is a manufacturing process in which transistors are built over a layer of silicon oxide that had been deposited on a silicon wafer. The technique is said to help control current leakage, which has become a more pressing problem as chip makers scale their creations down to the sizes found on the 90-nanometer process generation.

IBM also uses SOI technology, but it has experienced some yield issues at its manufacturing facility in East Fishkill, New York, as it makes the transition to 90-nanometer manufacturing. Yield is the number of working processors that can be cut from a silicon wafer.

Tom Krazit writes for IDG News Service

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