For most of its history, Dell has been all-Intel, all the time. Periodically, reports that Dell was contemplating offering AMD-powered PCs would spring up; those stories grew as AMD widened its CPU performance gap on Intel. Finally, the Intel facade was breached and Dell announced plans to begin selling a small lineup of AMD powered servers.
The question of whether this was a limited offering or the beginning of an influx of AMD-powered PCs was then raised. One research analyst believes (subscription) it’s the latter, and that Dell will begin selling desktop PCs with AMD processors. Citigroup analysts Glen Yeung says his company has confirmed "from industry sources" that an AMD-Dell PC desktop is in the works. AMD and Dell have both declined to comment on the report.
Dell’s decision to begin selling Opteron servers was one made out of necessity, especially given the performance advantage the Opteron has enjoyed over the Xeon. AMD single-handedly created the budget 64-bit x86 server market, and Intel has struggled to catch up. While Intel will close the gap on single- and dual-CPU servers with its upcoming Woodcrest processor, AMD may still keep the price/performance lead in 4- and 8-way configurations due to its use of HyperTransport.
On the desktop, early indications are that Intel’s upcoming Core 2 Duo (Conroe) CPUs will give the chipmaker a performance edge over the dual-core Athlon 64s. Although the vast majority of the benchmarking that has been done so far has been under Intel’s watchful eye, the numbers that have emerged are quite promising for Intel’s new architecture.
With Intel poised to take the desktop lead back from AMD, does adding AMD desktops to its lineup make sense for Dell? From a pure performance standpoint in a post-Netburst market, arguably not. However, there are other factors at work. Most notable is that Dell is no longer the shining star of the PC makers. Its growth has slowed behind that of its competitors, all of which offer AMD machines.
Perhaps most importantly is that Intel has apparently removed the largest incentive for Dell to remain an all-Intel shop. Intel’s latest round of price cuts are supposed to be available to all PC manufacturers, not just the likes of Dell. Couple that with the likelihood of an all-out CPU price war, and the impetus for Dell to remain a primarily Intel shop is all but gone.
Many of its customers don’t care whether the Dell computer that just arrived has an Intel or AMD CPU—they just want it to be inexpensive and reliable. However, CPU choice is important to a significant segment of the market, and it’s that segment that Dell risks alienating by refusing to carry a broader selection of AMD-powered PCs.