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In June AMD launched its first dedicated tablet chip series, the Z Series. A 5.9-watt Fusion APU, the chip has started popping up in new Windows 7 tablets, such as the MSI Wind 110W (pictured).  (Source: Google Images)

AMD is staying out of the smart phone market for now, though, unlike rival Intel who continues to make big smart phone promises with ever-slipping schedules.  (Source: Android Tablet Blog)

AMD's Bulldozer chip is badly needed to improve the company's PC and server-side sales outlook.
Tablets are okay with AMD -- smartphones, not so much due to battery constraints

Like Intel Corp. (INTC), Advanced Micro Devices, Inc. (AMD) salivates at the prospect of seizing a piece of the soaring tablet market.  Two months ago it launched its Z-Series CPUs (code-named Desna), targeting the tablet market.  

I. AMD -- The Strongest Tablet Challenger?

The design, which weighs in at a modest 5.9 watts, was reportedly rushed out the door.  Work on it began soon after former CEO Dirk Meyer was ousted.  Mr. Meyer had advocated that AMD stay out of the tablet business -- a key reason why the board decided he must go.

Just because AMD changed its mind about tablets, though, doesn't make the task at hand any easier.  It must vie with an entrenched ARM architecture, which of late has been boasting designs with high clock speeds, multiple cores, and relatively low power consumption.

Still, tablets are inherently graphical endeavor, and AMD arguably has vastly more experience making high quality graphics hardware than its fellow challenger Intel.

Interviewed at the Pacific Crest Securities Technology Leadership Forum in Vail, Colorado, AMD senior vice president Rick Bergman reaffirmed AMD's commitment to the x86 architecture, dispelling persistent rumors that AMD would seek an ARM license from ARM Holdings PLC.  He states, "We're excited about what the tablet market can do for AMD."

II. "Just Say No" to Smartphones

Interestingly, while AMD is enthusiastic about tablets, it's very bearish on the prospect of smartphones.  Mr. Bergman says the company has no interest at present to make smartphone processors, as the battery demands are too severe to make a quality x86 design.

This position stands in sharp contrast to Intel who has promised to enter the smartphone market in a big way, sometime in the near future.  The key word is "sometime" as Intel's smartphone schedule has been pushed back again and again.

In February of this year, at the annual Mobile World Conference Intel was all smiles and promises, proclaiming that it would have Intel-powered smartphones by the holidays, which would deliver industry-leading battery life.  

Apparently, though, it was counting on Nokia Oyj. (
HEL:NOK1V) to come through in a big way, with the Linux-based "Meego" platform.  And apparently it never got the memo from Nokia that it was going to drop Meego and go exclusively with Microsoft Corp.'s (MSFT) Windows Phone 7.  Intel CEO Paul Otellini bemoans, "In hindsight, Nokia was the wrong partner to have picked."

That shift has pushed Intel's launch plans back to "the first part of next year", according to CEO Paul Otellini.  The phrase "part" is convenient as it could imply quarter or it could imply half -- its as nebulous as Intel's smartphone plans itself.  

One pressing issue is that whatever good thing Intel had in store for this year, will likely have to be redesigned to keep up with the latest crop of ARM processors launching early next year.  Further there's no real clue on who will be Intel's operating system partner.  Apple, Inc. (
AAPL), Google Inc. (GOOG), Research in Motion, ltd. (TSE:RIM), and Microsoft all stand firmly behind ARM.

From a broad perspective, Intel's smartphone efforts are akin to trying to jump on a moving train.  And as you can imagine, the task doesn't get easier as time goes by.

Some would say AMD is selling itself short.  Indeed, if Intel can defy the odds and see a huge smartphone success, that's invariably how analysts will view it.  For now, though, most feel that AMD's decision to wait out the smartphone market is more a case of knowing ones own limitations, than a lack of ambition.

III. AMD Desperately Needs New High-Performance PC Core

Mobile matters aside, Mr. Bergman's interview also served as reminder of how desperately AMD needs its new high-power Bulldozer core to launch and be well received.  For all its gains with its popular Fusion platform 
[1][2][3], aimed at notebooks and budget PCs, AMD has seen server sales and sales in the performance PC market languish.  Its server market share dipped from 6.5 percent to 5.5 percent on a year-to-year basis, and its PC market share managed an anemic growth reaching 20.4 percent, compared to 19 percent a year prior.

In short, AMD is doing okay in PC sales, because Fusion is doing so well, but it's PC sales could be doing much better if its performance CPU sales weren't declining.  Further if its server sales weren't declining, it could be growing, rather than just breaking even.

States Mr. Bergman, "We frankly look back over the last couple of quarters, we've been disappointed with the results we've seen from our server businesses as we ceded some market share there."

Mr. Bergman is confident that AMD can deliver, though.  He says that later this quarter AMD will launch Bulldozer-based Opterons, which will deliver 40 percent faster performance using the same amount of power.  If it can do that, it just might be able to advance its position in the server space a bit.

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By FrankJBones on 8/10/2011 9:48:47 AM , Rating: 2
Sorry but the image you claim is a bulldozer is, in fact, NOT a bulldozer...


RE: Bulldozer?
By Etern205 on 8/10/2011 9:57:19 AM , Rating: 3
Yeah, that is some weird chip no one even knew it existed.
Here is the real AMD Bulldozer!!!1111!!1

RE: Bulldozer?
By makius on 8/10/2011 9:57:31 AM , Rating: 3
Yeah I was like umm... is there are new "excavator" chip coming out soon I don't know about?

RE: Bulldozer?
By spamreader1 on 8/10/2011 9:58:04 AM , Rating: 2
yea, backhoe /= bulldozer

RE: Bulldozer?
By amanojaku on 8/10/2011 10:07:06 AM , Rating: 2
Frank... Bones... If your middle name is Johnson...

RE: Bulldozer?
By JasonMick on 8/10/2011 10:10:37 AM , Rating: 2
Duh, fixed...

For anyone curious, this was the image that was originally up:

Of course, as the above ops pointed out that's a backhoe, not a bulldozer. Ha my 5-year-old self who wanted to be a "construction worker" would be pretty p1ssed off @ me right now...

Anyhow, I did my own 'shop, and now the true bulldozer has been unleashed.

(For the record, this isn't the ACTUAL packaging, it's just meant to be a fun graphic.)

Hopefully this proliferates the interwebs from here on out and the fake backhoe "bulldozer" is relegated to some dark corner of the net.

RE: Bulldozer?
By nidomus on 8/10/2011 10:21:52 AM , Rating: 2
Actually the previous image was a trackhoe. :X

RE: Bulldozer?
By JasonMick on 8/10/2011 10:51:16 AM , Rating: 4
Actually... (from Wikipedia)

Excavators that use a backhoe are sometimes called "trackhoes" by people who do not realize the name is due to the action of the bucket, not its location on a backhoe loader.

All I know is that they called them a "backhoe" in my 5 year old kiddie construction books I used to read.

RE: Bulldozer?
By bigdawg1988 on 8/11/2011 3:31:41 PM , Rating: 2
I used to work for an excavator builder, and that, sir, was an excavator. Backhoes normally don't have a swiveling cab. Shame on your kiddie books!

RE: Bulldozer?
By Etern205 on 8/10/2011 1:31:41 PM , Rating: 3
Gardeners likes lots of hoes. :P
I think AMD should as a thank you for buying their CPU, include a die cast Tonka bulldozer along with it.

I remember my friend's Sceptre monitor, it came with a plush doll of their Komodo Dragon mascot. :)

RE: Bulldozer?
By Hyperion1400 on 8/10/2011 5:36:52 PM , Rating: 2
When did they do that? I own two of the damn things and I never got one!


RE: Bulldozer?
By Etern205 on 8/10/2011 11:26:45 PM , Rating: 2
It was in their 19" model back like in 98 or 99.
I bought a 17" and don't have one either. :(

Makes sense
By 3minence on 8/10/2011 12:19:41 PM , Rating: 2
I agree with AMD on this one. Their is not an x86 Phone OS currently, but windows 7 on tablets is a possibility. Also, tablets have more space for the battery necessary to run an x86 CPU & GPU.

AMD needs to continue to watch the mobile x86 space, but let Intel do the heavy lifting on x86 in phones. Its only fair, Intel sat back and let AMD do the heavy lifting for 64bit and multicore CPUs.

RE: Makes sense
By Kiffberet on 8/12/2011 7:55:08 AM , Rating: 2
Just like Samsung, Motorola and Google (Android) sat back and watched Apple do the heavy lifting, with their iPhone and iPads...

Sadly its come back to bite them in @ss, because they're banned from selling their rip-off models in Europe (and soon US).

By soloburrito on 8/10/2011 10:46:12 AM , Rating: 2
"Meyer's vision had AMD continuing to do battle with Intel Corp. over the PC processor market. But the company's activist board began pressuring him to retool the vision to include a bold move into the emerging market for mobile Internet devices, such as tablets and smartphones.

Meyer, a proud, tough veteran chip design manager, apparently resisted that direction, according to comments from board members and analyst supposition. But neither Meyer nor the board has publicly explained what happened."

performance per watt
By Bubbacub on 8/10/2011 6:06:24 PM , Rating: 2
in the mobile space it boils down to performance per watt.

and amd has been pretty weak in the mobile space pretty much since centrino first came out.

if they want to compete then they need to concentrate on a dedicated low power chip.

downscaling a server/fat desktop chip and chucking in a IGP isn't going to be good enough

By Strunf on 8/10/2011 8:51:01 PM , Rating: 2
Seriously what's going on with AMD, they used to be the outsider that every now and then would show the path to take but today they do nothing but follow the pack... they are late to every possible market.

AMD should learn a bit from Intel and a great deal from ARM, if they can't have a x86 then why haven't they just got a license from ARM and build some ARM CPU's with one of their own GPU just like ... nVIDIA.

In the next few years there will be a split in the market with ARM on one side and x86 on the other, knowing that Intel is also on the x86 team I doubt AMD will be able to keep its market share.

"The Space Elevator will be built about 50 years after everyone stops laughing" -- Sir Arthur C. Clarke

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