AMD has confirmed that it has begun the process of ending production of its older 486, 586 and K6-family processors - despite promises made last year to support the K6 line for five more years.
AMD's plans to phase out its pre-Athlon processors, almost all of them sold for use in embedded applications these days, emerged this week in emails sent out by mobo maker VersaLogic informing customers of the resulting change to its own product line.
"AMD, the supplier of CPU chips that are used on many of our products, has notified us that they plan to re-tool the production line that currently produces 486, 586 and K6 CPU chips. AMD needs to use their Fab 25 facility to produce a different line of products and will stop production on these CPU chips on 28 June 2002," claims the email, now reproduced in full on the company's Web site (see link, below).
"As recently as October 2000 they announced new processors (the K6-2E+ and K6-IIIE+) and assured us of their continuing long-term support for the embedded market," it continues.
That support doesn't appear to have wavered, despite the cull of older CPUs. AMD's European marketing chief, Richard Baker, told The Register that the company is essentially making room to shift its low-end Durons down into the embedded space, and customers will be encouraged to migrate from the K6-2E+, K6-IIIE+ etc. to that processor.
So, just as the K6 family was shifted into the embedded space when it ceased to have much of a presence in the PC market, so too are early Durons being shifted accordingly.
However, VersaLogic appears convinced that this may not happen. It describes AMD's decision as a "major blow to the embedded computer market" and the plan to phase out the CPUs as "an abrupt turn", which suggests VersaLogic sees it as an abandonment of the business. The mobo maker talks of steering customers toward Intel products, which seems to us as much an attempt to persuade AMD to change its mind as much as anything else. Indeed, the public email has more than a hint of sour grapes about it.
It does seem hard to imagine why AMD would effectively hand over its embedded sales given the usually highly lucrative nature of the embedded market. Times are tough right now, with no clear upturn expected until late next year, so why not take the opportunity to phase out old kit and prepare the ground for more advanced products in time for a revival in the market?
Baker said that production of the processors in question would not cease at the end of June next year, rather it would stop taking new orders at that point. General production will officially stop at the end of 2003. Indeed, customers with specifically negotiated sales volumes and supply timeframes will be continue to supplied with parts as per their contracts, he added. ®
VersaLogic: Email to customers re. AMD