More twists in Dell / AMD soap opera

The Dell / AMD soap opera is one of the longest running dramas in the IT world with a new fun packed episode published just last week. Will Mikey Dell jeopardise his long-standing marriage with Intel’s Paul “bunny suit” Otellini for the excitement of a threesome with AMD’s high brow Dr Ruiz.

Certainly this is what analyst Les Santiago from Piper Jaffray believes. In a report published last week he says that Dell will abandon its Intel exclusivity and ship machines running AMD processors, perhaps as soon as the second half of 2006.

Santiago bases his analysis on a number of factors, including news reports suggesting that Dell has Far Eastern manufacturers working on PCs based on AMD processors, unnamed sources who work in PC component business, and AMD inventory shortages, which could be a sign that Dell is building stocks of AMD chips.

Comments last week from Dell Chief Executive Kevin Rollins that Dell was AMD was “open” to using AMD chips, and comments from Mikey Dell himself at the Consumer Electronics Show that it was a "distinct possibility" that his company would consider using AMD processors, have all added fuel to the fire.

We have, of course, heard these kinds of vague statements before and they could be nothing more than a stick with which to beat Intel into offering beater prices by reminding Otellini and co that there is a serious alternative out there. Either that or the Dell executives are miffed that Apple got to play first with Intel’s new Core Duo chip (I doubt Apple’s PC-bashing Intel advertising will have impressed the Dell beige box brigade either).

There is no doubt that AMD holds a significant performance advantage both on the desktop and on the server – Intel’s lead is currently confined to notebooks. Rahul Sahood, the CTO of Voodoo PC, who is known for not mincing his words describes the AMD’s server Opteron chip as a “silicon gladiator”

Intel will close the over the coming months with the release of its Conroe and Woodcrest for desktops and servers respectively but then neither will AMD have been standing still. According to Sahood, Dr Ruiz won’t be panicking just yet as he says AMD will continue to eat away market share in the server and workstation market “like Pacman eats dots”.

So, whilst the writers of the Dell/AMD soap opera may continue their attempts to keep us tenterhooks by spinning the saga out for a few more episodes, the question has to be asked does AMD need Dell after all?