After about two years on the market, AMD's budget Duron processor is being retired — and consumers may see some PC bargains disappear along with it.

AMD expects to stop producing the Duron by 2003, the company says. The news came along with the announcement this week of AMD's Opteron chip.

Most industry talking heads consider the Duron a strong product caught in the crossfire of AMD's price wars with Intel and say its demise could boost prices on AMD-based value PCs.

"The consumer may not have always recognised it, but the Duron was incredible value," says Dean McCarron, principal analyst at Mercury Research.

MicroDesign Resources analyst Kevin Krewell agrees. "You definitely got more bang for your buck with a Duron over a Celeron," he says. Celeron is Intel's budget processor.

Because it was based on the strong Athlon core, which continues to compete well with Intel's Pentium 4, the Duron was an excellent performer, says McCarron.

At its most successful, it supplied as much as 50 percent of AMD's volume sales, McCarron says.

AMD executives say they'll move Athlon into the low-priced market where Duron currently resides. But that could be a mistake, says MDR's Krewell.

"Taking Athlon into value will take the value of the name down a notch," he says.

AMD's Mark de Frere, Athlon brand manager, disagrees, saying customers will win when Athlon hits all price points.

As for consumers, if AMD manages to keep the price of its budget Athlons higher than today's Duron prices, buyers could see an effect on PC prices, or at least on configurations, Krewell says. Prices may go up, or you could just get less for the same price.