AMD Road Map Spans Servers To Mobile Phones

With no intention of making major cuts in operations, the company's strategy is to break even by the fourth quarter starting with the release of its quad-core chip, code-named Barcelona.

Antone Gonsalves, Contributor

July 27, 2007

5 Min Read

Advanced Micro Devices on Thursday unveiled a product roadmap it hopes will help turn the company around after nearly $1.8 billion in net losses in the last three quarters.

The chipmaker on Thursday rolled out its plans for microprocessors that meet the needs of hardware ranging from servers and high-performance computers to mobile phones and consumer electronics. With no intention of making major cuts in operations, the company's strategy to break even by the fourth quarter is simple: "We'll sell a hell of a lot more (product)," Robert J. Rivet, chief financial officer for AMD, said during a half-day meeting with technology analysts and reporters.

The first order of business is to make a comeback against its larger competitor, Intel, which through pricing and an aggressive product road map of its own has regained the market share it lost to AMD in 2006. To get back in the race, AMD plans to ship for revenue this quarter Barcelona, the code name for its first quad-core processor. Intel has been shipping quad-core products for a year.

Barcelona will fall under AMD's Opteron server line, and will initially be available in two versions: a lower power, 55-watt version with a clock speed of 1.9 GHz, and a standard edition 95-watt version at 2 GHz, Randy Allen, VP of AMD's Server and Workstation Division, told the gathering. A high-performance version at 2.3 GHz will be available in the fourth quarter.

Also set for release this year is Budapest, the code name for a quad-core Opteron that will find its way into one-socket servers and workstations. For the desktop, AMD plans to ship quad-core Phenom. A sample 3-GHz version of the processor was demonstrated on Thursday.

In the first half of 2008, AMD plans to ship Budapest's successor, Shanghai, which will feature common standard HyperTransport 3.0 technology. The latest version is expected to provide high-speed chip-to-chip and board-to-board communications. Shanghai also will have shared Level 3 cache, which is a third bank of memory on the processor for storing instructions.

Barcelona, Budapest, and Shanghai will have dual and quad cores, AMD said.

In 2009, AMD plans to ship its next-generation platform Sandtiger, an eight-core server processor made with a 45-nanometer manufacturing process. Most AMD chips today are built with a 65-nm process, which is less energy efficient. Intel plans to ship its first 45-nm chips by the end of the year.

AMD early next year is set to release its first processor built from the ground up for laptops. The planned Griffin CPU and chipset are collectively known as Puma, which is expected to place AMD about even with Intel in mobile computer platforms.

AMD, along with Intel, has recognized for a while that the computing industry has expanded far beyond the traditional desktop and mobile PC. An increasing number of consumer devices, from ultra-portable PCs and smartphones to digital TVs, are becoming fertile ground for next-generation x86 processors.

Despite AMD's financial troubles, the company has no choice but to move aggressively into consumer electronics. "From the perspective of a short-term strategy, it may not seem critical because of their current financial situation," said Jim McGregor, analyst for industry research group In-Stat. "But long term, it's very important to their success and survival."

In targeting consumer devices, AMD is developing an x86 core called Bobcat, said Phil Hester, corporate VP and chief technology officer for AMD. The core is designed to run on as little as 1 watt of power, and is scheduled to be available in a line of products starting in 2009. The processing core also will be in future versions of ATI Technologies' Xillion graphics processors used in digital TVs. AMD acquired ATI a year ago for $5.4 billion.

Bobcat will compete with Intel's Silverthorne, a standalone processor that will power ultra-mobile PCs and handheld Web browsers. Intel plans to ship its processor in the first half of next year.

AMD also is working on a new core for servers and desktops codenamed Bulldozer, Hester said. Bulldozer will consume from 10 watts to 100 watts of power, and will surpass anything AMD makes today in terms of performance.

AMD said it believes the graphic technology it acquired with ATI will provide features for its chips that Intel won't be able to match on its own. "If they're going after the same customer base that we are, then they're going to have to deal with that," Henri Richard, executive VP of sales and marketing, said during a question and answer session.

The processor AMD expects to be unmatchable by Intel is called Fusion. Fusion merges graphics and CPU cores, which AMD claims will boost the visual performance of notebook and desktop PCs. The first line of Fusion chips is called Falcon and is scheduled to ship in 2009.

One area where AMD is looking to reduce costs is in manufacturing. Doug Grose, senior VP for manufacturing and supply-chain management, said the company has finished a plan to reduce manufacturing expenses, but didn't disclose details. Nevertheless, he said the company is strongly committed to running its own fabrication plants -- or fabs -- while outsourcing some processes to partners Chartered Semiconductor, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing, and United Microelectronics.

Nevertheless, AMD doesn't plan to downsize to become profitable. "We're not going to cut ourselves out of this situation," Richard said. "We're going to continue to invest cautiously where it matters."

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