Advanced Micro Devices is releasing its 1.1-GHz Athlon processor to vendors. But you can't buy a system that uses the chip - at least not yet.

That's because AMD says the new processor won't officially launch until 28 August, which is when major vendors will also announce new systems.

AMD's announcement is just the latest in the battle of one-upmanship between the company and rival Intel, which announced shipment of limited quantities of its 1.13-GHz Pentium III chip 31 July.

So while both companies have "announced" new chips running faster than 1 GHz, there's little chance you'll actually be able to buy systems with the chips right away.

Is all of this posturing harmful to consumers? Probably not, says Mike Feibus, a principal analyst at Mercury Research.

Most consumers aren't looking to buy the latest and greatest processor, he says.

Only truly high-end users will jump at the chance to buy systems with the very latest processor, which often carries a significant price premium over slightly slower chips.

Premature chip announcements may frustrate those high-end processor fanatics, but that group is a small percentage of buyers.

More important to AMD and Intel is the market's perception of who is the leader in cutting-edge processor performance.

That positive perception is especially important to AMD as it tries to market the Athlon processor to business PC buyers, a group that has remained more faithful to Intel than consumer buyers have.