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AMD

AMD is also known as Advanced Micro Devices.

Founded in 1969, AMD is the second-largest supplier of IBM PC compatible processors, and a leading supplier of non-volatile flash memory.

AMD makes the Athlon and Duron lines of x86-compatible processors.

The company got its start in the microprocessor business in 1979 as a second-source manufacturer of the Intel 8086 and 8088 processors, under contract from Intel. AMD later produced the 80286, or 286, under the same arrangement, but then Intel cancelled the agreement in 1986. AMD then made its own clones of the later Intel 80386 and 80486 models, which were sold at a significantly lower price than the Intel versions.

In 1995, AMD purchased NexGen, Inc and the rights to their Nx586 processor, rather than copy Intel's Pentium processor. They rebranded the Nx586 the AMD-K5, and shifted it from a proprietary socket to Intel's Socket 7 allowing the processor to be used in almost any Pentium compatible motherboard. The processor used an x86 design which included several design features common in RISC processors. Two years later, they released their sixth-generation processor, the K6, and a year after that, the multimedia-enhanced K6-2. In January 1999, the final iteration of the K6-x series, the 450 MHz K6-III, was briefly the fastest x86 microprocessor in the world. This chip was essentially a K6-2 with 256 kilobytes of full-speed level 2 cache integrated into the core and a better branch prediction unit.

In August of the same year, AMD once again took the crown of having the fastest x86 in the world when they released the Athlon (K7) processor. Except for a few weeks here and there, AMD held this distinction with later revisions of the Athlon until March of 2002. Even so, many users consider Athlon or K7 processors superior to Intel's current Pentium 4 processors by way of a better architecture. However, Athlons are known to have problems with low-quality power supply units.

AMD's future strategy appears to be diverging significantly from that of Intel, with the upcoming release of the 64-bit AMD64 "Hammer" architecture. Whilst retaining support for the traditional x86 instruction set, the Hammer's native 64-bit mode is unique to AMD processors and will not be compatible with the IA-64 architecture used in Intel's Itanium processor. As a relatively straightforward extension and cleanup of the basic x86 architecture, from a technical perspective AMD's conservative approach looks likely to produce, at least initially, better price-performance than the Itanium and its successors. Whether system integrators and consumers will risk investment in a non-Intel architecture is still, however, unclear.

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