AMD announced this week that it has shipped the first sample versions of its 45-nanometer chips to select manufacturers, but the question remains about how much real impact they ultimately will have on the enterprise.
The company maintains that volume shipments of the Shanghai server chip and the Deneb desktop model are still on track for the second half of the year. The manufacturing process involves what is known as immersion lithography, which essentially maps the transistor pattern on the silicon in one step instead of the normal two, a measure that AMD says cuts manufacturing costs nearly in half. Improved wire insulation that cuts power consumption some 15 percent compared to 65-nanometer devices also will save money.
For something that's going to ship in a few months, it is somewhat puzzling that there's still so much we don't know about it. Clock speed, for one, hasn't been revealed, nor has an actual power consumption rating, both of which will certainly factor into any price/performance comparisons with the Intel Penryn.
There's also no word on exactly what AMD plans to do with all that on-chip real estate that will be freed up by shrinking down to 45 nanometers. Speculation has it that a combined CPU/GPU device would be in order, considering the nifty graphics technology AMD picked up from ATI. For the moment, though, we'll have to settle for the new 780G graphics chip that sports more than 200 million transistors, nearly triple those of the current 690G product.
But before we get too down on AMD, we should point out that neither it nor Intel have a particularly rosy future, according to many leading analysts. Weak processor demand has already caused Intel to cut prices on some of its leading systems, mainly dual cores and flash chips. If the slowing economy is dampening demand for the bread-and-butter products, it's hard to see how either manufacturer will be able to move large quantities of cutting-edge devices.
Still, nothing is gained by sitting still, and word is starting to leak about forthcoming notebook platforms -- the Montevina for Intel and the Puma for AMD. John Morris gives a good rundown on the specs for each line on his ZDNet blog.
For AMD's part, the company lost a lot of trust in the Barcelona debacle last year and the repeated delays of new products -- trust the company hopes to win back with the Shanghai and Deneb chips. Whether you love it or hate it, it's nice to have AMD around, if only to keep Intel on its toes.