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Sun cool on AMD's Hammer

Too tasty?

Last week Sun praised AMD's 64-bit extensions lavishly. AMD was the hottest date in town, and Sun had her number!

But yesterday, when we asked if Sun might extend its new line of x86 computers to encompass AMD's Opteron, passions had cooled.

"There's no point confusing the public," said Sun's "chief competitive officer" (more of which below) Shahin Khan.

"The path to a set of standard 64-bit extensions has been elusive," said Kahn. "There's little prospect of Intel and AMD agreeing," he said.

So AMD - she's just another gal, after all.

Of course, last week AMD was talking about Itanium. This week it was talking about its new edge servers. Opteron is good when compared to Itanium, of course. But Opteron is bad compared to the new LX50, and Sun's own SPARC systems.

Which reminds of the quote (said in another context, about something else, and perhaps you can help us with the attribution) - that the Hammer extensions are "great in practice, but how do we make them work in theory?"

We were scheduled to talk to Cobalt marketing veteran Bill Roth, but discovered that Kahn was also on the call.

In one of very few words Bill managed to get in edgeways, he said that Cobalt had started with Linux on MIPS, and used AMD processors, but customers clearly wanted Intel inside.

We asked Bill if Sun planned to go above two-processor systems, but Shahin answered that most of the serious volume is in one and two-ways, and if people really scream for four-ways, then they might think about it.

We asked Bill if the LX50 pricing (which starts at $2795 for the 1.4Ghz PIII/512MB RAM//36GB HD) wouldn't expose it to undercutting from Dell. Shahin answered that Sun has out-Delled Dell, and buys more components than anybody.

So a pattern of sorts is emerging. Last week we tuned in to hear Sun's distinguished engineer Marc Tremblay - who helped design UltraSPARC I and II, picoJava and the fabulous MAJC chip - talk about processors and, Marc could barely get a word in either.

So now we know what "chief competitive officer" means at Sun: there's a competition to grab as much air time at press conferences, and Shahin's won! ®

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