Citing poor uptake of the latest desktop quad-core microprocessors from its rival Intel, Advanced Micro Devices said on Monday it would bring out a chip with ‘three brains’ in the new year.
The announcement was a surprise, coming just a week after the major launch by AMD of its four-core processor, code-named “Barcelona.”
It also goes against the industry tradition of doubling processing power with each new design. Single-brain microprocessors are giving way to dual-core ones, followed by quad-core, with eight cores due next from Intel.
But AMD on Monday quoted industry research that showed quad-core chips had only grabbed two per cent of the market since Intel first introduced them last November. In contrast, dual-core chips took 12 to 15 per cent of the market within the first two quarters of their release.
“We believe triple-core is the right product at the right time to serve a broad swathe of the market,” said Bob Brewer, head of marketing and strategy for AMD’s PC platforms.
“There’s a space for it, it makes sense, it’s naturally going to resonate with consumers.”
AMD is still planning to introduce its “Phenom” quad-core processor for desktop PCs in December, but it will follow up with a triple-core version in the first quarter of next year.
“If the choice is say $200 for a dual-core [processor] and $400 for a quad-core, then if you can get $300 for a triple-core, it’s like free money,” said Nathan Brookwood, analyst with the Insight64 research firm.
AMD told reporters that the choice of single, dual, triple and quad-cores would simplify its product lines for consumers, who were confused by comparisons between clock speeds and the size of memory caches on the chips.
Mr Brewer said a triple-core chip would work well for example on a PC where a user was playing a video game such as Bioshock, which utilised two cores, and where an anti-virus programme ran at the same time using the other core.