November 1, 2006 11:47 AM PST

Dell puts AMD-powered notebooks on sale

Dell's first notebooks with chips from Advanced Micro Devices appeared for sale on its Web site Wednesday, although the company made no formal announcement.

The PC maker has never publicly discussed plans to use AMD's notebook technology. But sources familiar with Dell's strategy said earlier this year that it was only a matter of time before the company added notebooks to the AMD-based desktops and servers it had already introduced.

Three Inspiron 1501 notebooks were available for ordering on Dell's site Wednesday, but the company did not issue a press release. A representative did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

The Inspiron 1501 notebooks have a 15.4-inch widescreen display. Two of the models listed on Dell's site use a new processor not listed on AMD's pricing page, the single-core MK-36 processor. Customers have the option of upgrading to more powerful dual-core Turion X2 chips for $50 or $100, depending on the clock speed. With the MK-36 processor, the base price of the first Dell AMD laptop is $704, but a $549 model is available with AMD's Mobile Sempron.

Dell lists a ship date of Nov. 30 for the notebooks. The systems help explain AMD's soaring market share among notebook processors during the third quarter. As for the availability date, a manufacturing pinch might help shed light on why potential customers might have to wait so long to get their hands on the laptops. AMD is moving to new manufacturing technologies just as demand for its chips is increasing, in part because of its new partnership with Dell.

After years of flirtation, speculation and frustration, the companies announced plans earlier this year to ship Dell servers with AMD processors. They followed that up with AMD-based Dimension desktops.

AMD had a distinct performance advantage over chipmaking rival Intel in those two categories before the introduction of Intel's Core 2 Duo this summer, but Intel has always had control of the notebook processor market. AMD has acknowledged that its current notebook chips could use a redesign to be more laptop-friendly. The first AMD chips built with notebooks in mind are expected next year.

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