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AMD Targets Notebooks With Fusion Processors

Due in 2009 are laptops with multicore Fusion chips, which merge x86 and graphics cores in a hybrid processor.

SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Notebook computers are the target of the Fusion processors from Advanced Micro Devices that will merge x86 and graphics cores and ship in 2009. AMD believes the integration will power notebooks with "significant, though not dramatic" improvements in performance-per-Watt, outgunning offerings from archrival Intel Corp.

AMD announced the Fusion program when it completed the acquisition of graphics chip designer ATI Technologies in October. At that time it said the Fusion chips would be targeted broadly at everything from palmtops to supercomputers. Now the company is getting more specific about its plans.

"Our plan is to focus on mobile to deliver significant increases in performance per Watt. We will start in mobile and hopefully integrate upwards" [into desktops], said Steve Polzin, chief platform architect at AMD in a keynote address at the DesignCon Conference here Monday (Jan. 28).

The AMD strategy aims to recreate AMD's success with its Opteron CPUs that integrate a memory controller and standard cache coherent interconnect, easing the job of building multiprocessing servers as well as multicore processors. Thanks to the integration, AMD has grabbed a slice, of the server market from archrival Intel Corp.

Like servers, notebook computers represent a fast growing and relatively high margin segment of the PC sector. The integration of graphics is driven by the need to support high definition video and high quality graphics while maintaining low power consumption, Polzin said.

Key to AMD's success will be an effort to drive the industry to a consensus on a small set of standard application programming interfaces to enable the hybrid Fusion chips.

"We recognize software is a big part of making accelerated processors work well," said Polzin in an interview after his speech.

"One API would be our Nirvana, and I hope we can get there, but I don't think practically we are going to. In the near term there will be a few APIs for different market spaces," he said.

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