CALL it a chip off the old Intel block.
Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) is getting ready to sell a new
computer chip that will compete directly with the popular 80386
microprocessor sold by archrival Intel Corporation.
The AMD chip looks like Intel's 386 chip. It works like a 386.
This week a federal judge is expected to rule whether it can be
called a 386.
The Am386, as it is known, will be the first clone to break into
the huge, $1 billion market that Intel has monopolized for six
years. If sales take off, the new chip could be an important boost
to Advanced Micro Devices (AMD), a struggling semiconductor
manufacturer based in Sunnyvale, Calif.
Sales of the Am386 won't make or break the company, AMD
executives say. "We will just be more prosperous sooner" if it
succeeds, says Ben Anixter, vice president for external affairs. The
company expects to ship the semiconductor soon, certainly by the end
of the first quarter.
"It clearly would be very profitable" for AMD, says James
Barlage, managing director of research for Smith Barney, Harris
Upham & Co.
Microprocessors are the heart of a personal computer (PC). The
386 microprocessor is extremely popular because computer users are
demanding faster and more powerful machines to handle increasingly
sophisticated software. When Intel introduced its 8088 chip 12 years
ago (which was used in the original IBM PC) it handled 330,000
instructions per second. Intel's next generation 80286 (used in the
IBM AT) handled 2 million instructions per second. Its 80386 is
two-and-a-half times faster still.
Computers built around the 386 have become the standard in the
personal computer industry.
Intel has filed three suits against AMD since the two companies
broke away from an agreement to trade chip technologies. In the case
likely to be decided this week, Intel charges that the name 386 is a
protected trademark that competitors cannot use. Intel has also sued
AMD for using its microcode to build a clone of an earlier Intel
chip. In the third case, an arbitrator has ruled against Intel for
breach of contract. The arbitrator has not yet set damages. Andrew
Grove, Intel's president and chief executive officer, declined to
comment on the legal cases.
Analysts say the microcode suit represents the biggest threat to
AMD, because it might force the company to write its own code for
the chip. But the immediate prospects for AMD are good.
ACCORDING to AMD, customers have already reserved the first six
months' production of the chip. …