AMD has chosen the name for its Centrino-killer chip - Turion - which, according to the OED, is "a wintering bud which becomes detached and remains dormant at the bottom of the water". However, another definition is more upbeat, calling it "a thick fleshy young shoot".
The company will officially unveil Turion, its new mobile processors in thin-and-light notebooks, on Monday. The processors will consume 35 watts or less of power, said Bahr Mahony, a marketing manager in AMD's Mobile Business Segment. They are based on the same architecture as its Opteron and Athlon 64 processors, with an integrated memory controller and 64-bit extensions to the x86 instruction set.
AMD made significant progress against Intel in 2004, but found the notebook market difficult. Intel's Pentium M processor, combined with its Centrino marketing strategy, has attracted legions of notebook buyers looking for desktop-like performance in a thin-and-light notebook.
Most of AMD's success has come in full-sized notebooks, the desktop-replacement models that US consumers have bought in huge quantities over the past few years. But consumers are increasingly looking for lighter notebooks with better battery performance, which requires a processor with sophisticated power management technology.
At the company's analyst meeting in November, AMD said it was working on new processor designs for thin-and-light notebooks that would compete head-to-head with the Pentium M. Those chips will carry the Turion brand and be available in the first half of 2005, Mahony said.
With Turion, AMD has opted not to follow Intel's platform strategy, in which the Centrino mobile technology is the public face of the Pentium M processor, the 855 chipset, and the Intel Pro/Wireless Wi-Fi chips. AMD believes that PC vendors will prefer the option of using chipsets or wireless chips from multiple sources, picking the best product for cost or performance considerations, Mahony said.
Intel's strategy of marketing the package, rather than the individual components, has proven such a hit that the company plans to market desktop technology in the same way. However, Centrino is more than just a marketing strategy at an architectural level, according to Mooly Eden, vice president and director of marketing at Intel's Mobile Platforms Group. The processor, chipset and wireless chip were designed to work together from the early stages of development, and have several features that components from other vendors could not support, such as power management technology, he said.
When Intel first unveiled the Centrino brand in 2002, such integration was more necessary than it is today, said Nathan Brookwood, principal analyst with Insight 64 in Saratoga, California. Wi-Fi was a nascent technology that was not always reliable, and it made sense that Intel would insist upon designing all of the major notebook components for interoperability, he said.
However, Wi-Fi is now familiar to most prospective notebook buyers, thanks in large part to Intel's marketing budget, Brookwood said. Consumers have insisted upon better Wi-Fi performance and interoperability, and most interoperability problems have been worked out thanks to rigorous testing by PC vendors, he said.
AMD will release further architectural details about its Turion processors when they are released later this year, Mahony said.