AMD Left at the Altar

My sister-in-law loves Lifetime. You know, that goofy cable TV channel that runs nothing but movies featuring the "husband cheats on wife only to return later after recognizing the error of his ways" theme? I'm told it, uh, usually doesn't work that way in the real world. But what about in the chip industry? Can business be like Lifetime?

Apparently so. Yesterday, Kevin Rollins, CEO of PC market leader and Motley Fool Stock Advisor pick Dell (Nasdaq: DELL  ) , told a gathering at a Wall Street technology conference that his company no longer needed to evaluate chips from Advanced Micro Devices (NYSE: AMD  ) . Instead, like a Lifetime movie, it plans to stick with its old, faithful chip partner, Intel (Nasdaq: INTC  ) -- flaws and all.

Coincidentally, the decision comes just as Intel has launched the Pentium 64, and at roughly the same time the chip maker demonstrated its dual-core 64-bit technology. Dual-core is geekspeak for combining the brains of two chips into a single piece of silicon. Doing so boosts processing power by allowing for simultaneous processing of separate computing tasks.

Rollins' reasoning for calling off the flirtation with AMD is typical. He said he believes Intel has fixed its problems and that his customers will be satisfied by Intel's newer offerings. That's a huge blow to Advanced Micro Devices. First, it suggests that the upstart chip maker may not be as far ahead of Intel technically as we've all been led to believe. And second, it leaves Advanced Micro Devices with the struggling PC makers as its core customers. That can't bode well for its own growth, or its self-esteem.

But don't expect this soap opera to end soon. After all, while Advanced Micro Devices has a lot of work to do to get its flash business in order, it has done well on the desktop and in the server market over the past year. There's no reason that can't continue. In the meantime, Intel has scored a major victory by luring a wide-eyed Dell back home. Can it keep the PC king loyal? We wouldn't even ask that question if this really were a Lifetime movie. Yet even in the real world, men and women stray, and so do companies. If AMD gets all prettied up again, or Intel has another bon-bon binge, expect Dell's wandering eyes to return.

Fool contributor Tim Beyers can't believe Dell actually even thought about getting between Intel and AMD. That's like trying to broker peace between the Hatfields and the McCoys. What's your take? Tell us at the Semiconductors discussion board. Tim didn't own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this story at the time of publication. You can find out what's in his portfolio by checking Tim's Fool profile, which is here. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.


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