Processor Wars Heating Up

Many years ago, say as far back as 1999, Intel sent out press releases and white papers that trumpeted the merits of SMP for all forms of computing tasks. SMP gave Intel a hook that their competitors (Cyrix and AMD at the time) couldn't match because none of them supported any sort of multiprocessing configuration. And I admit, I agreed with Intel: I used dual-processor SMP machines as my standard desktop. Even with non-SMP-aware applications, I felt that dual-processor machines enhanced my productivity; the machines were faster, harder to crash when applications tried to take control of the CPU, and were generally a better user experience. And SMP servers were an obvious benefit with most applications. Frankly, Windows 2000 Professional is very happy when run as a dual-processor workstation.

But then a funny thing happened. Intel shipped its latest and greatest processor, the Pentium 4, without SMP support. And suddenly, just having one really fast processor was good enough—which was pretty much what Intel's competitors had been saying all along, especially AMD, who has been fighting to keep a slight edge in the "who has the faster processor" war with Intel for the past few years.

Now AMD has returned fire at Intel with a shot aimed dead amidships. On Tuesday, AMD announced its first product in the multiprocessor space—a 2-way development of the Athlon processor family, the Athlon MP and its attendant chipset, the AMD-760 MP. The chipset design is very different from Intel's offering, with a dedicated 266MHz front-side bus for each processor. AMD's test results seem to indicate that its SMP CPU offerings (1GHz and 1.2GHz) are faster than Intel's Pentium III offerings. I now have an AMD desktop system, and I'll report on my Win2K Pro testing results in a future column. To be fair, I'll try to make the AMD system work with the Windows XP Beta, too, because I know Intel systems work with XP correctly. You can find all the technical details about the new AMD technologies here.

Last week's Commentary about my problems with Office XP (specifically Outlook) generated hundreds of reader responses. Half were from users looking for help with problems that were just as annoying as the ones I documented. The other half were about a utility from Sue Mosher's excellent Outlook site that you can use to dynamically select which types of attachments Outlook blocks. Click here and download the COM add-in to control what Outlook lets you see. Microsoft's official registry edit directions for letting users see attachments are here.

Unfortunately, none of the readers knew how to get Office XP to actually pay attention to its configuration settings. Most of the readers who commented on that problem had problems of their own, which I couldn't duplicate on my systems. In return, they couldn't see the problems I was having. I'll bundle up all of the problems reported to me and pass them along to Microsoft for comment.

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