The AMD Effect might be back—and that’s a good thing

AMD is going to make Intel fight for every sale it gets, and that only benefits the consumer

The AMD Effect might be back
Intel and AMD

In the early part of this century, Intel had become fat, dumb and lazy, not to mention complacent. Competitors such as AMD, Cyrix and VIA had been vanquished, and Intel stood alone on the x86 market. Its product offerings were a confusing mess of code names and features that confused even a propellerhead like me. 

Then AMD made its move. It introduced the Athlon, a dual-core, 64-bit x86 processor with the memory controller on the CPU. Intel pooh-poohed all of this. It had a 64-bit strategy called Itanium. No one needed 64 bits anyway.

+ Also on Network World: Ryzen CPUs explained: Everything you need to know about AMD's disruptive multicore chips +

Intel would eat its words. Once Microsoft and the Linux community introduced 64-bit versions of their operating systems, Athlon and its server equivalent Opteron would take off like a shot. Not because of performance, but because they shattered the 4GB memory limit of 32-bit processors. Now you could have servers with 8GB, 16GB or more, if you could afford it, and the age of server consolidation and virtualization had begun.

It also lit a fire under Intel. The ineffectual Craig Barrett was replaced by the first non-engineer to lead the firm, Paul Otellini, and he would whip that company into shape real fast. It would embrace multi-core and 64-bit computing, as well. It also helped that AMD stumbled badly with the Barcelona project and never recovered.

Fast forward to now. AMD has settled back into distant second place, and while Intel hasn’t gotten lazy, there has been virtually no performance gains in recent processor generations.

Intel responds to AMD’s Ryzen 

Now history is looking to repeat itself. Since the February release of the Ryzen processor, AMD has excitement buzzing around it for the first time in years. Ryzen processors sold out at retail and online locations, and all the attention is on AMD. Well, it looks like Intel has taken notice, and the beast is being awakened. Again. Maybe.

Taiwan’s DigiTimes, which admittedly has a sketchy track record, reports Intel will introduce its next-generation platform Basin Falls at Computex 2017 in June, a few months earlier than expected.

The Basin Falls platform consists of the Skylake-X and Kaby Lake-X processors and a new chipset, the X299. The Skylake-X platform will apparently consist of three 140W processors with six, eight or 10 cores. A 12-core variant will apparently follow in December. DigiTimes goes on to say it expects Basin Falls to launch at the E3 gaming show in June, just a few weeks after it is scheduled to be unveiled at Computex. Not surprising, given AMD’s strength with Ryzen is with gamers as well.

The publication also claims Intel has pushed up the launch of the 14nm Coffee Lake architecture to as early as August rather than early 2018.

If Intel’s accelerated schedule is accurate, it shows AMD has done what was desperately needed: It lit a competitive fire under the complacent giant. Granted, with PC sales in the toilet, it’s not hard to see why Intel might have eased off the gas a little. They killed off the Intel Developer Forum even though it was still well-attended. The emphasis is off the PC these days, other than gaming, but AMD is going to make Intel fight for every sale it does get, and that only benefits the consumer.

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