Tag: amd

Intel kicks AMD in its low end

kung-fuAMD’s results have revealed a weakness in the outfit’s bread and butter lower end chips which is being exploited by Intel.

Intel’s  Atom Bay Trail is taking notebook share from AMD and  consumer-notebooks do not appear to be making up the missing cash.  It seems that Intel has been doing a much better job of convincing OEMs to Atom Bay Trail than AMD. This means that as demand for laptops has stabilised, Chipzilla is in a stronger position.

Barrons  said that its recent conversations with notebook ODMs indicate that AMD is ceding material share to Intel’s Atom Bay Trail platform in the sub-$399 computing market.

Intel’s cunning plan, which was to focus on the low-end x86 computing segment after giving up on the netbook in 2012, is paying off.  It still has a long way to go before it has the sort of control of that market that it has with overall PC processor sales. It has been estimated that Intel has half of the low end market in comparison to 80 per cent overall in PC processors.

One of Chipzilla’s sales points is that Atom Bay Trail 4-watt processors have outperformed AMD’s 26-watt processors in performance benchmarks.

If that is correct, then the only thing that is holding AMD together is that its APU business division. It has increased 20 percent or more over the past six months thanks to the recently launched Kaveri and Beema APUs. This will make  AMD’s desktop APU sales increasingly dependent on expansion from Application Service Providers which some analysts have written off as unlikely.

It might be simply another example where Intel has nobbled a key rival while its back was turned.

 

AMD loss shocks Wall Street

AMD_lassDespite winning all sorts of console contracts, AMD managed to disappoint Wall Street by posting a loss this quarter and gave a revenue forecast for the current quarter that missed expectations.

AMD’s stock fell 15 percent in extended trade after the outfit said it had a net loss of $36 million in the June quarter, compared with a loss of $74 million, a year earlier.

Intel’s results had created expectations on Wall Street that the worst is over for the personal computer industry.  However this seems to suggest that AMD does not think so.

AMD has been expanding into new markets like game consoles and low-power servers and it aims to obtain half of its revenue from those additional businesses by the end of 2015.

Some of the dafter analysts think that the problem is because AMD is too dependent on the PC and does not make enough cash making mobile gear. That argument falls flat when you realise that Intel made a stonking profit but its mobile division bled cash.

Generally it was nothing to do with falling PC sales, or a drift to mobile. AMD’s biggest problem is debt. Each quarter it has to pay $49 million to service its huge debt pile.  If this were not, there the company would have reported a non-GAAP operating profit of $67 million.

In fact AMD’s revenue rose 24 percent to $1.44 billion in the second quarter. The company said its third-quarter revenue would rise 2 percent, plus or minus 3 percent, from the June quarter. That would be about $1.47 billion. Analysts on average had expected revenue of $1.44 billion in the second quarter and $1.57 billion in the third quarter.

Revenue in the Computing Solutions Group dropped 20 percent from a year ago, to $669 million, as microprocessor unit shipments declined. But notebook processor sales rose, while AMD sold fewer desktop processors and chipsets. GPU revenue declined as well, partially offset by a rise in chips sold into graphics workstations and add-on cards.

 

AMD eyes Nintendo for chips

AMD, SunnyvaleAMD thinks it can get back into the portable console business, and is hinting at a new deal with Nintendo involving its 3DS.

The vice president of AMD’s custom semiconductor business Saeid Moshkelani noted that AMD was doing rather well in consoles. It was providing the graphics processors for the Wii U, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4.

However, portable consoles, such as the 3DS and PS Vita use other processors and AMD wants a piece of that action.

Of course, he admits, that market appears to be drying up but he said that “believe it or not” the 3DS is still selling.’

He said that before AMD could invest any time on a project it would have to be worth at least $100 million annual revenue for us to go for it.

He said that no Android console has made anything like that amount of money and it is extremely hard to imagine Sony producing another handheld console after the PS Vita, which leaves Nintendo – who have confirmed they definitely are making another portable.

Nintendo has said that whatever their next handheld is it will share the same operating system as their next home console and therefore the same games and apps.

Though there are various models, Android does not face software shortages because there is one common way of programming on the Android platform that works with various models.

It is not clear if AMD actually has Nintendo in the bag as a customer, but the fact Moshkelani is talking about it makes it a good bet.

 

AMD releases A series APU

AMD_lassAMD has added the AMD A10-7800 Accelerated Processing Unit (APU) to its A-Series 4th generation APU lineup.

The new chip has 12 compute cores (4CPU + 8 GPU) which AMD claims will unlock the designs full APU potential and Heterogeneous System Architecture (HSA) features.

The AMD A10-7800 is based around AMD Radeon R7 Series graphics and AMD’s Mantle API.
It can enable accelerated performance across select AMD Gaming Evolved partner titles.

Bernd Lienhard, corporate vice president and general manager, Client Business Unit, AMD said that the 2014 AMD A-Series APUs were the most advanced and developer friendly performance APUs from AMD to date.

The AMD A10-7800 APU supports UltraHD (4K) resolutions and new video post processing enhancements that will make 1080p videos look better when upscaled on an UltraHD-enabled monitor or TV.

The chip comes with a configurable thermal design power option (cTDP) to allow the overclocker crowd to tinker with it.

Sales will start in Japan today with worldwide availability at the end of July.

In addition, AMD announced the introduction of the AMD A6-7400K and AMD A4-7300 APUs, for the home and office market.

With the unifying FM2+ infrastructure for AMD APUs, users are enabled to build smaller lower power form factors for gaming and home theatre PCs.

Intel accused of gouging customers

Intel-logoAn American newspaper claimed that Intel is taking advantage of its near monopolistic position by hiking microprocessor prices for servers.

The Wall Street Journal said over the bank holiday weekend that ASPs for Intel server chips soared.

Intel told the Journal that customers wanted higher end CPUs for server systems. But the Journal points out that now Intel microprocessors represent 97 percent  of the server market.

AMD used to be a contender but it isn’t any more, and only has a teeny weeny three percent of the market, according to US outfit Mercury Research.

Intel’s pricing isn’t competitive any more and it needs someone to kick its butt, said the Journal, quoting a manager from Tyan, a Taiwanese server motherboard company.

Intel had no comment to make at press time. Our sister pub, TechEye, said this morning that AMD is planning some kind of response.

Microsoft is at the crossroads

A knight at the crossroads, Victor VasnetsovIn many cultures, both in Asia and the West, crossroads are considered to be baleful places, associated with darkness, with death.

Why so?  A crossroads is a place where you have to make decisions, to head off in a different direction, not really knowing what lies at the end of the route you choose.

Microsoft is at the crossroads.

The appointment of Satya Nadella as Microsoft’s CEO, replacing the somewhat understated Steve Ballmer, is a considerable challenge for the software behemoth.

And Bill Gates is back – spending a third of his hours – to help with Microsoft’s product strategy.

There are a few problems with the Gates move.  Despite Microsoft’s undoubted success in the past, much of it was a product of accident coupled with very cunning marketing.  It was, for example, IBM’s decision to adopt DOS as the operating system for the first PC which pulled Microsoft from obscurity into the limelight.  Although Microsoft released its first version of Windows it was many years before Windows took off. Microsoft was never very good at inventing anything.

The stimulus for businesses to adopt the IBM PC was a clever piece of software from Lotus, 1-2-3.  Even that spreadsheet was not a first because that honour belongs to Visicalc, for Apples. But Apples were and are expensive and in the 1980s large businesses adopted PCs because they would never be fired for buying IBM.  The fact that PCs had Intel microprocessors inside meant that businesses were tying themself into a cartel which included. at that time, Microsoft and AMD too.

When companies and individuals first started adopting Windows, Microsoft had the field to itself for the introduction of application software was offered as a bundle.  Its software was, in the late 1980s and early 1990s. judged inferior to offerings from the like of Lotus, Ashton-Tate and Borland – just as examples.

But now Microsoft, like its joined at the hip partner Intel, is lagging behind in the technology stakes, with both joining the smartphone and tablet revolution way too late.  And we’ve seen a steady decline in sales of the PC for many quarters now. The gravy train has hit the buffers, or perhaps the cash cow is dead.

What’s interesting in the management reshuffle yesterday is that Symantec and former IBM senior executive John Thompson is now chairman of the Microsoft board, essentially meaning that Microsoft’s three main movers and shakers is a troika.  Thompson should not be underestimated.  He is a highly intelligent, astute businessman who has been trained in the school of hard knocks.

The big question is whether in the next 10 years will we see all those giants of the PC age – HP, Dell, Intel, Microsoft and the others – relegated to the second division or maybe even the fourth.

That’s why Microsoft is at a crossroads. And there’s no compass nor GPS nor Google Maps to show it the right route to take..

Distie goes into administration

pc-sales-slumpKMS Components  has entered administration, with Deloitte acting for the company.

The distie, which specialised in products from Asustek, Microsoft, and other big names has stopped trading, with a notification on its website saying that Deloitte names Richard Hawes and Matthew Smith are the joint administrators.

The Welsh company was operating more or less normally until yesterday.

A statement on the web site says: “Richard Michael Hawes and Matthew David Smith were appointed Joint Administrators of KMS Components Limited on 8 January 2014. The affairs, business and property of the Company are being managed by the Joint Administrators.

The Joint Administrators act as agents of the Company only and contract without personal liability.

The Joint Administrators are authorised by the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW). All licensed Insolvency Practitioners of Deloitte LLP are licensed in the UK.”

There’s no word about the fate of the staff.

AMD bullies Nvidia with $399 Hawaii card

radeon-r9-290A few weeks ago AMD introduced its Volcanic Islands products at an event in Hawaii. Most of the line-up were just rebrands, but the flagship R9 290X and R9 290 weren’t. 

The Hawaii cards are based on all new silicon, 6.2bn transistors crammed onto a 28nm die. AMD did not announce the prices at the event, but a couple of weeks later it launched the R9 290X at $549. The price was lower than expected and it forced Nvidia to slash the price of the GTX 780 by $150.

Just as Nvidia countered the R9 290X, AMD decided to make its life miserable once again. The Hawaii Pro version of the card, the R9 290, launched at $399 – making it $100 cheaper than the GTX 780, which went down from $649 to $499 last week.

There is, however, a slight problem for Nvidia. The R9 290 ends up significantly faster than the GTX 780 and in some cases it can even give the $999 GTX Titan a run for its money.
So, the new card is $100 cheaper than what Nvidia has to offer, yet it’s faster. There is one problem though, reviewers report the R9 290 can get very loud, but it seems like a small price to pay considering the price/performance ratio. In addition, it’s only a matter of time before AIB partners come up with non-reference designs, with custom coolers to keep the noise down.

Nvidia was already forced into two price cuts following AMD’s launch. First it slashed the prices of its sub-$199 products to compete with AMD’s rebranded R7-series. Then it slashed the prices of the GTX 780 and GTX 770, only to be undercut by AMD’s new $399 card. Most punters were expecting the R9 290 to end up at ~$449, but like we said last month, AMD had a couple of good reasons to launch it at $399 – and it did.

Nvidia simply doesn’t have much wiggle room left. Perhaps it’s feeling a bit like Guy Fawkes, and hoping bonfire night is merely a damp squib.

Intel seems to have lost its way

Sean MaloneyThe news that Intel’s Galileo is on its way just underlines to me how the chip giant has lost its way.

The “open source” computer costs $70, and uses its Quark microprocessor. Intel clearly thinks it will compete against the highly successful Raspberry Pi but clearly it hasn’t got a chance to play catch up.

The launch mirrors Intel’s late attempt to climb on the tablet bandwagon by cutting the price of its Atom microprocessor to compete with ARM and Nvidia based chips.  But it hasn’t got an earthly here, either.  Manufacturers are very chary about using anything with the Intel name associated with the tin. Again, that’s underlined by vendors’ reluctance to be associated with Intel.

Cheap is everything in the tablet market now and even though Intel’s chips might be, er, cheap as chips, the economics of this don’t really make a lot of sense to anyone. Sure, Intel has heaps of capacity but that in itself is part of the problem. State of the art fabs are really expensive these days and the volume game just doesn’t fit Intel’s business model.

In reality, the chip giant really has very little new to say. The new broom in the shape of CEO  Brian Kzanic appears to be attempting the Herculean task of cleaning the Augean Stables not just of the dung but also of a heap of very good people who have let their legs do the walking.

Datacentre business no doubt is still healthy for Chipzilla, but on the other hand independent market research shows that the notebook market is on the wane.  Sure, enterprises will refresh their notebooks but with the arrival of BYOD, there’s a level of ambiguity which must leave Intel more than a little bemused.

In truth, Intel has had zilch to say in the last three years as smartphones and tablets transformed the “traditional” Wintel model.

As part of the antitrust agreement following the demise of DEC, Intel found itself with StrongARM devices. At the time, we asked top executives from the firm why it didn’t just cut the Gordian Knot and produce a highly portable ARM based device?  The answer, of course, was that Intel was on the Centrino notebook gravy train. Sean Maloney, now a non-executive director at Chinese foundry SMIC, realised that the Atom chip might well cannibalise the notebook market but nobody at Intel appeared to have looked further than the next three quarters and see its dominance becoming more and more eroded.

Of course, Intel has oodles of cash in the bank but oodles don’t last forever.  Re-engineering its business model is, for Intel, a far from trivial task. As an Intel watcher for the last 30 years, I will be most interested to see what happens in the next 12 to 18 months.

Industry experts talk up R2B, R2D2

highA group of executives behind the Retail to Business (R2B) initiative is warning retailers that they could be in a world of trouble if they don’t start targeting businesses.

The R2B initiative was formed by Context and it’s backed by execs from Lenovo, AMD, Lexmark, Tech Data and other companies. The ultimate goal is to make retailers more competitive and capable of taking on B2B resellers.

“Let’s stop the decline – or stores will end up being showrooms,” Global MD for Retail at Context Adam Simon told PCR. “Don’t just focus on consumers and tablets – blur the consumer and SMB. Support the small business people and their entourage.”

The consumerisation of IT and trends like BYOD is already blurring the line between SMBs and average people. Context argues British retailers could learn a thing or two from telecoms who have dedicated in-store corners in their shops for business users. Germany is also setting an interesting example, as its retailers are already selling heaps of laptops to businesses.

AMD shakes up high-end GPU market

radeon-r9-290AMD has lifted the NDA veil off its new flagship Radeon card and the first reviews and products announcements are popping up on the interweb. The press loves the R9 290X. AMD went to great lengths to keep the launch price a secret until the last possible moment, which appears to have been a very good move.

Most observers were expecting the new card to launch with a $599 or even $699 price tag, but it ended up at $549. This sounds like a very good deal as it wipes the floor with Nvidia’s $649 GTX 780 and it can even take on Nvidia’s $999 Titan card in some tests. Clearly Nvidia will have to do something to counter AMD’s launch and it already has a new version of the GTX 780 in the works, but pricing will be a problem and the R9 290X will erode Nvidia’s margins on GK110 products.

As far as specs go, the R9 290X is the first card based on AMD’s new Hawaii GPU. It features GCN 2.0 architecture, 512-bit memory bus, 2,816 shaders and it’s the biggest GPU AMD has ever built. Reviews indicate that performance is not an issue, although the card tends to get hot and loud in AMD’s high performance “Uber” mode. The cooler is not that great, which leaves a lot of room for AIB partners to play around with custom designs.

Another question is the Pro version, or the R9 290. The NDA will reportedly be lifted in a week and there is still no word on the price. The XT-based R9 290X is shaping up to be quite a performer, but the Pro version will offer plenty of performance at a much more attractive price point. However, it is still unclear how AMD plans to price it. At $449 it would be a nice deal, but if AMD really chooses to stick it to Nvidia and sacrifice margin, it might end up at $399, which would be very disruptive.

Nvidia has already reduced the prices of its sub-$199 cards to counter AMD’s rebranded R7 and R9 series products. Now it remains to be seen how low it can go and it won’t be easy – Nvidia’s GK110 GPU has about a billion transistors more than AMD’s Hawaii, which makes it quite a bit more expensive to produce, yet it ends up slower in most versions.

See Also
AMD declares war on Nvidia

AMD Hawaii event has aggression written all over it

radeon-r9-290Huge GPU launches are back. An AMD  webcast dragged on for more than two and a half hours and the ailing chip firm went to great lengths to explain a few new technologies, showcase games and of course talk GPUs. In fact, the event was so big that many complained the presentations were too long and too elaborate.

Let’s take a quick look at what AMD graphics boss Matt Skynner announced last night. As expected, AMD has a new naming scheme, mid range products now come with an R7 prefix, while the R9 prefix is reserved for high-end and performance boards.

The line-up starts with the R7 250, with 1GB of GDDR5 memory. AMD says the card scores 2,000 in the Firestrike benchmark and it’s priced at $89, so AMD calls it the king of sub-$100 gaming. The R7 260X comes with 2GB of memory and hits 3,700 in Firestrike.

The R9 series starts at $199, with the R9 270X with 2GB of RAM and a Firestrike score of 5,500. The R9 280X is priced at $299 and scores 6,800 in Firestrike. AMD says it was designed for 1440p gaming.

The flagship R7 290X boasts 4GB of RAM and a 512-bit memory bus, with bandwidth of over 300GB/s. AMD did not reveal its price or the exact specs and clocks of any of the cards. Rumours point at a $599 price tag, but rumours can be wrong. The general consensus is that the R7 290X should outpace Nvidia’s GTX 780, perhaps even the pricey Titan.

All in all the new generation looks very competitive, at least on paper. We’ll have to wait for some proper reviews before jumping to conclusions. The cards are expected to hit retail in the second half of October, but this isn’t official, either.

AMD also used the opportunity to talk up TrueAudio, a new spatial audio technology incorporated in some of the new cards. The tech press had a chance to see it, or hear it in action at the event and the first impression is very positive.

Then there were games, loads and loads of games. AMD scored an exclusive bundle deal with EA and it will sell a limited bundle edition of the R9 290X with Battlefield 4. AMD also promised to deliver even better even better Never Settle bundles, which could help the new cards gain a bit more traction.

But in our opinion, the biggest news wasn’t a new card or a new game – it was the fact that AMD chose to stage such an event at all. AMD and Nvidia are now talking about a renaissance in PC gaming and analysts seem to agree. Sales of gaming gear are bucking the industry trend and they are still growing. This year the sector will net $18 billion, but by 2016 the figure should hit $21 billion.

AMD and Nvidia believe consoles are no longer directly competing with PC gaming, not to mention smartphone and tablet gaming.

Hawaii illustrates AMD’s newfound love of GPUs

AMD, SunnyvaleThe PC market has been in trouble for quite a while, but even before the most recent slump, there were a few telltale signs that many big players were getting ready for a slowdown. Lavish launch parties aren’t very high on the agenda and the 2008 crash only sped up the austere trend.

AMD is now taking a different route. After years of low-profile product launches, the company is holding a big bash in Hawaii, where it will launch its latest Hawaii GPU on Wednesday.

This is clearly a statement of intent – AMD wants to raise the bar in the GPU space yet again. Nvidia on the other hand is talking up Tegra, but it’s not doing nearly as much on the GPU front. AMD has a few highly successful promotions in the form of Never Settle bundles, while Nvidia talks Tegra, Tegra and more Tegra. Did we mention Tegra?

So what’s behind AMD’s recent change of heart? Well, it might be a knock-on effect of Rory Read’s hands-on approach to management, but we believe it represents a strategic shift in AMD’s thinking. Nvidia still has a firm grasp on the professional market, with its high-margin Quadro series. It is also beating AMD in notebook design wins – but notebook sales aren’t going very well and with each new generation of Intel Core chips and AMD APUs, integrated graphics are getting better, hence the low-end discrete GPU market is evaporating.

Tegra was Nvidia’s way to tap new markets and make up for lost ground in the GPU space. It was by no means a failure, but it hasn’t been a huge success either. Nvidia no longer wants to deal with console GPUs, hence it ceded that market to AMD.

To some extent, AMD and Nvidia are no longer vying for the same market. There’s never been so little overlap when it comes to the AMD – Nvidia duopoly. AMD does consoles, Nvidia does discrete mobile GPUs, AMD does APUs, Nvidia does Tegra and so on.

Nvidia will continue to do well in the workstation space, as workstations are still selling quite well and they’ve been largely unaffected by the PC slump. Sales of gaming hardware are projected to grow at a steady CAGR of about three percent for the foreseeable future, which means both AMD and Nvidia should have no trouble selling mainstream and high-end discrete graphics. However, the console wins and the lack of presence in other markets mean that AMD is left to pursue the core gamer market more actively.

This explains the Hawaii bash along with the huge bundles. As Nvidia tries to diversify, AMD will try to attack its core business and right now it is lot more aggressive than it was a year or two ago. Whether AMD’s back-to-basics strategy will work remains to be seen.

Intel runs out of roadmaps

stapThere was a time, some years ago, when Intel mattered. It doesn’t matter any more at all and it is running out of steam.

Soon, Intel will hold its annual Intel Developer Forum (IDF) – it was a must attend event back in the days when the company had many very talented senior executives. Most of them are goners now.  Intel was famous for inventing things and driving the industry by using its considerable clout to create stuff.

Now it creates nothing, nothing at all.  Like many a large corporation, including Microsoft and many another corp too, it started behaving like an ingrowing toenail, believing – against all the evidence – that it would hold its mighty market share forever.

We did warn Intel repeatedly it shouldn’t rest on its laurels.  When it adopted StrongARM, as a result of the Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) maneuvers, we advised it that it should drastically change its business model and produce some stunning and cheap devices based on that technology.

But no. Like an ignorant bull, it insisted that the world+dog should have notebooks that cost a small fortune.

The last two years has seen its strategy crumble into dust. No one cares about its roadmaps any more. No one gives a flying fart about its process technology. No one has a clue.  It lost some of its most talented individuals – Kicking Pat Gelsinger, Mike Fister full of dollars, Mike Splinter and the rest, and blithely pursued a path which will lead it to Carey Street, if it’s not careful.

As we reported a week or two back, the freshly minted CEO is attempting to introduce a top down page and firing all the spin doctors who, these days, couldn’t spin their way out of a paper bag, nor organise a piss up in a brewery or cheese factory.

Like many an old dinosaur, its tiny brain doesn’t realise that it has been dying from the tail up for several years. It is a shame – we have the utmost respect for any company that has factories – this is no trivial matter. But engineering its way out of this current crisis is, we feel, a fab too far to go.

PC slump may actually benefit AMD in long run

AMD, SunnyvaleIt is often said that a crisis is merely an opportunity in disguise. It is often said but it’s rarely true. However, the steep drop in PC shipments could in fact be good news for AMD.

Ten years ago AMD taught Intel a costly lesson in the high end, forcing Intel to regain its footing and invest heavily in R&D and manufacturing. As a result Intel squeezed AMD out of the high-end consumer CPU market, relegating it to the mid range and low end.

AMD wasted its opportunity, but eventually it picked up ATI a couple of years after its CPU design peaked. Things looked bright for a moment, just before they went terribly wrong. AMD suffered from poor execution and its high end chips just weren’t good enough to keep up with Intel. The K8 glory days are long gone and AMD is now a different company, it is fabless, but it also has plenty of IP, competitive graphics and very interesting APU and x86 SoC designs.

So how could the weak PC market benefit AMD, especially now that mobile chips are the new black, and AMD hasn’t got any?

Long upgrade cycles are one indicator that the era of “good enough” computing is already here. The average PC is more than four years old, few people need costly high end processors and attention is shifting to low end and mid range silicon. This is what AMD is becoming good at. Its new Jaguar based APUs are brilliant and they are superior to Intel’s current generation of Atoms. Richland based APUs aren’t as competitive, but they offer relatively good value for money and they are making inroads in the ULV market as well. The bad news is that AMD is still suffering from execution problems. Kaveri was supposed to replace Richland later this year, but it has been pushed back to early 2014, along with desktop Jaguar-based Kabini parts. AMD’s propensity for delays makes any forecast extremely difficult.

With very little need for Intel’s high-end x86 chips in the consumer market, gamers and professionals aren’t enough. This is an obvious opportunity for AMD and CEO Rory Read seems to get it. That might explain why AMD is focusing its efforts elsewhere. APUs are just part of the story, they were the logical next step in CPU evolution. AMD’s next big thing is custom chip design. The Xbox One and PS4 are based on Jaguar, with AMD graphics in tow. Now for some geeky figures.

Most people associate Jaguar with cheap and small APUs, but custom console SoCs are neither. Built using TSMC’s 28nm process, the SoC used in the Xbox One actually features eight Jaguar CPU cores, coupled with powerful graphics and plenty of SRAM embedded on the die. They pack around 5 billion transistors, while Intel’s mid-range Haswells are said to feature between 1.4 billion and 1.2 billion, depending on the SKU.

AMD hasn’t forgotten how to do huge, immensely complex chips – it’s just not doing big x86 cores anymore. Its high-end GPUs also have upwards of 4 billion transistors. What’s more, AMD can apply the same custom approach to server parts and it’s also working on ARM based server chips as well. This flexible, modular approach sounds very interesting indeed, but it’s still too early to say whether AMD will put it to good use in server chips, so to speak,  whether it will manage to find enough customers for custom parts, as the orders have to be relatively big to justify the expense of developing and producing such chips.

As far as AMD’s graphics business goes, it is doing rather well at the moment. Time and again AMD has proven that it can go toe to toe with Nvidia and win a few rounds. We’ve been looking at a virtual stalemate for the past five years. This year AMD managed to increase its GPU market share, despite the fact that Nvidia won nearly all Haswell notebook design wins. The trouble for Nvidia is that notebook graphics are a dying market. In the consumer space AMD is doing well, while Nvidia still maintains a big lead in high-margin professional graphics. The recent console wins should also help AMD’s consumer GPU business, as developers should find it easier to optimise their games for AMD’s architecture on three different platforms.

The big question is mobile. A couple of months ago Nvidia announced that it would license its Kepler GPU and future GPU IP to third-party ARM SoC builders. AMD has not made the same commitment, but some AMD graphics tech is already used in mobile chips, in the form of Qualcomm’s Adreno graphics. The ARM SoC business will continue to grow and we are bound to see more consolidation. Nvidia has a small presence in the ARM SoC market and if it is willing to license its technology to its own competitors, AMD could and should enter the market as well. It is worth noting that Adreno is running out of steam, as it is based on old AMD/ATI tech. We’re not sure it would make financial sense for Qualcomm to continue development in-house, it might reach out to AMD instead. There is very little overlap between Qualcomm and AMD at the moment, and such a marriage of convenience would make perfect sense. If that happens, AMD could end up with a huge market share in ARM SoC graphics, trumping Nvidia, ARM and Imagination.

AMD is still in a world of trouble, but looking ahead it might actually be in a better position to weather the storm than Intel, at least in the consumer space. High end chips and server parts are still Intel’s turf, although AMD could score some custom server wins in the future. Intel is pushing mobile now and it has a good chance of penetrating the market a couple of years from now, but in reality if AMD starts licensing GPU IP to the likes of Qualcomm, it could make heaps of cash in mobile, with a lot less investment and risk than Intel.