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Fusion processors are cheap, power efficient, and pack a powerful GPU -- a winning combination for budget designs.  (Source: Computer Shopper)

The chip has helped AMD finally turn the corner and return to profitability.  (Source: Maximum PC)

  (Source: Comic Vine)
Once troubled chipmaker appears to be turning the corner thanks to GPUs and CPU/GPU "Fusion" combos

Advanced Micro Devices, Inc.'s (AMD2006 purchase of ATI Technologies for $5.4B USD was widely criticized and scrutinized at the time.  But it now appears that it may have saved the company.

After a couple years of losses, AMD finally appears to be turning the corner this year.  The company reported [press release] an impressive net income of $510M USD on revenue of $1.61B USD.  Its operating income was $54M USD and its non-GAAP income was $54M USD.

The strong earnings were largely driven by AMD's continued dominance in GPU sales.  They also were driven by AMD's new Fusion system on a chip that packs power-savvy Bobcat CPU cores on a die with a full Evergreen (found in the 6000 series) GPU.

OEMs appear to be embracing the chip.  Acer, Asus, Dell, Fujitsu, HP, Lenovo, MSI, Sony and Toshiba have all launched Fusion designs.  And the chips are also becoming popular in the embedded sector for devices like casino machines, which need a more power GPU to drive a large screen.  Fujitsu, Kontron, Quixant and Congatec are all pushing embedded applications of Fusion chips.

Thomas Seifert, CFO and interim CEO, elates, "First quarter operating results were highlighted by strong demand for our first generation of AMD Fusion Accelerated Processing Units (APUs).  APU unit shipments greatly exceeded our expectations, and we are excited to build on that momentum now that we are shipping our 'Llano' APU."

The Fusion chips are proving so popular for several regions.  First, AMD has priced them very competitively, so they're winding up in very affordable laptop designs.  Secondly, the chips are very power efficient.  And finally they offer a nice performance blend, offering sufficient CPU performance and relatively powerful GPU performance.

By contrast Intel Corp.'s (INTC) latest design Sandy Bridge, also packs an on-die CPU/GPU pairing.  But the onboard GPU is significantly weaker, the power consumption is higher, and the chip is more expensive.  Thus while it is solution of choice for high-power enthusiast desktops and laptops, it's less than optimal for the much larger budget laptop/desktop market.  

Sandy Bridge was also hurt by early defects in its SATA connections, which have since been fixed.

A common criticism leveled against Fusion is that having a discrete GPU in a budget design is superfluous.  However, for Blu-ray playback or playing popular older video games like World of Warcraft, customers definitely come to appreciate the benefits of the design.

It appears that AMD is, at the moment, out-competing Intel much in the same way it outcompeted graphics chipmaker NVIDIA Corp. (NVDA) -- by attacking the low end.  Of course, AMD's growing Fusion sales likely would not have been possible were it not for new scrutiny from U.S. and European antitrust regulators that forced Intel to stop paying off OEMs to ignore AMD designs.

It's worth noting that Intel still leads AMD significantly in market share.  AMD is also experiencing leadership troubles of late, with a number of executives departing.

But at the end of the day, though, even in the face of these issues and bigger questions loom about the future of x86 processors as a whole, AMD looks much better positioned to be competitive with Intel.  And all of that comes back to the increasing returns from its strong GPU division.



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Glad to see it
By Manch on 4/22/2011 10:00:13 AM , Rating: 5
I'm glad to see AMD finally making a turn fo the better. I just hope they'll become competitive on the highend again. There's no competition at the top, and the prices reflects that.




RE: Glad to see it
By Pirks on 4/22/11, Rating: -1
RE: Glad to see it
By bug77 on 4/22/2011 10:16:17 AM , Rating: 3
AMD was into high-end with their Athlon64(X2) line. They did it before, they may be able to do it again. It's tough, but it can be done. Where AMD really huts is production capability. They can't take 70-80% of the market share because they can't produce that many chips.


RE: Glad to see it
By Pirks on 4/22/11, Rating: -1
RE: Glad to see it
By Amiga500 on 4/22/2011 12:03:20 PM , Rating: 2
CMT could be the reason.

Much better than SMT.

:-)


RE: Glad to see it
By brybir on 4/22/2011 12:18:27 PM , Rating: 5
Your statement is not logical. To say that a company will never make a large scale mistake again similar to the one Intel bade with Netburst is at best wishful thinking. History has shown over and over that companies can and do repeatedly make major mistakes that cost them significantly or even drive them out of business.


RE: Glad to see it
By Da W on 4/22/2011 12:20:19 PM , Rating: 5
On the contrary they did.
You just have to watch all this tablet vs PC debate to at least understand that the most powerful CPU in the world is not necessary anymore. Even in x86, the market is moving toward the GPU. And Intel refused to see it, didn't buy out Nvidia, decided to prevent them from building chipset for their Corei7 designs and chosed to develop their own integrated graphics in house, which are of course a piece of crap compared to what ATi or Nvidia can pull off in the same power enveloppe.
By only going CPU CPU CPU, Intel is screwing it again. AMD has a fighting chance. My old phenom X3 is powerful enough to run everything i want when paired with a good graphic card. So i can only imagine all the OEMs going crasy on a 200$ Phenom X4@ 3.5Ghz with an integrated 800 stream processor which is just what the radeon 4870 had 2 years ago.
And fusion isn't only about graphics, it's eventually about GPU computing, where a powerful GPU can be much more potent.
Anyway if you wanna bet on a stock, i'd say AMD has more potential upside than Intel right now.


RE: Glad to see it
By Reclaimer77 on 4/22/11, Rating: 0
RE: Glad to see it
By semiconshawn on 4/24/2011 4:49:09 AM , Rating: 2
80% of a dying market. If you dont think the pc box as we know it is going away you live in cave. Intel is screwing up all over. You talk about Microsoft being late to the phone/tablet market wtf? Intel is as odd as it may seem at risk of being consumer obsolete. My teenage kids are into tablets and cell phones samsung, apple, htc, google even MS look to be in ok shape by my in house survey intel is nowhere to be found. My money stops in a few short years and my kids begins I would rather be Apple than Microsoft, Samsung than Sony, Microsoft than Sony, Google than anybody, and anybody but intel. Weird because I am a semiconductor equipment engineer and intel is the undisputed king of semiconductor fabrication. Im a bit of an intel fanboy in some ways...


RE: Glad to see it
By Reclaimer77 on 4/24/2011 8:41:33 AM , Rating: 2
You're funny.

Sorry but most of us like to get stuff done, not play around on a crappy touch screen all day. If you think the "pc box" is just going away, you're insane. Oh and please show me how the business sector is going to abandon the "pc box" and get productivity out of touch tablets and smart phones!

You are just all over the map with your post. Your kids, google, intel, MS...dude come on. Yup sorry Intel, it's over for you, this guys kids don't use your stuff!


RE: Glad to see it
By kaosstar on 4/25/2011 12:40:34 PM , Rating: 2
There are plenty of people "getting stuff done" on tablets, netbooks, and even smart phones. Traditional PCs are currently necessary for graphics, video, and other media work, and programming, to some extent. The desktop PC is almost a niche market already, and with the rapidly increasing power of more mobile devices, not to mention the trend toward harnessing the untapped potential of GPUs (and there are some very powerful GPUs even in phones now), it is clearly on the road to become an even smaller niche.


RE: Glad to see it
By Reclaimer77 on 4/25/2011 8:21:41 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
The desktop PC is almost a niche market already


That is an ABSURD statement. Do you know how many PC's are still out there.

Plus you proceed from a false premise that they are mutually exclusive. Tablets, ebook readers, and smart phones COMPLIMENT the PC, not replace it. I don't know anyone who has a mobile device that doesn't also have a PC, and uses it to enhance their experience.


RE: Glad to see it
By wordsworm on 4/27/2011 9:38:32 AM , Rating: 2
Complement, Reclaimer. A compliment is what you give your wife when she asks you how she looks.

Most PCs/laptops have sh*t for graphics because they're powered by Intel. I agree with several other posters here that Intel has made a grave error that might only be rectified by the purchase of nVidia, or perhaps by partnering with them (fat chance!)

So, if AMD can produce enough of these Fusion chips, they're going to cream Intel. However, as I said awhile back, I fully expect them to be constrained... again... by their ability to manufacture (or have manufactured for them) sufficient quantities to really compete. I still have yet to see one in the wild out here in Korea. Though, I have a plan to go to Seoul next month, which has an enormous electronics district. Surely I will find them there. I see them online: Fusion nettops that would cream all but the nVidia enhanced nettops, for the same price as a low end Atom.

That said, I think there may always be room for a high end CPU with discrete graphics. However, that remains to be seen... stay tuned!


RE: Glad to see it
By Gondor on 4/23/2011 2:22:25 PM , Rating: 2
It would appear that the top end APUs due for release are going to be more along the lines of Athlon II x4 @ ~3 GHz + 4650/5550 level graphics combined.

Your Phenom x4 @ 3.5 GHz + 4870/5770 level graphics combination sounds terrific, it's just not going to happen anytime soon I'm afraid :(


RE: Glad to see it
By jarman on 4/22/2011 1:33:10 PM , Rating: 3
Once? Forgetting about Thunderbird vs. PIII?


RE: Glad to see it
By CyborgTMT on 4/23/2011 3:17:22 AM , Rating: 3
K6 >= PII - both in performance and price
k7 > PIII - Athlons killed the slower and late Pent 2
K8 > PIV - 64 bit and first to dual core beats netburst

So from 1998 till 2006 AMD either had the best processor or was equal but cheaper than Intel. Had Intel not stacked the deck against AMD with bribes to OEMs K9 (canceled) and K10 might have been another win for them.


RE: Glad to see it
By Samus on 4/22/11, Rating: 0
RE: Glad to see it
By acsa77 on 4/22/2011 6:39:05 PM , Rating: 2
RISC vs. CISC (x86) is not as simple, as decades ago. This is a much more complex question. Just read the expert debates. RISC took a lot over from CISC and vice versa. And the nowadays ARM architectures take over a lot from x86 capabilities. Desperately. And nowadays x86 has maybe 10-20% from the original architecture. (Both instruction set and implementation.) x86 has the advantage of extraordinary flexibility in intelligent computing. And Intel is still improving. It is the only platform in the commercial segment to handle AI overhead. The crunchers based on GPU are very inflexible, and confined to relatively primitive tasks. Maybe in 5-6 years this will improve, and then you don't have to build a blade cluster with a lot of inert mass to have multi-node intelligence. Intel had this premature idea with Larrabee but failed.

But I also agree, that Intel also failed with providing the philosophy of Fusion for consumers. And AMD is generally more friendly in terms of platform-services, in all areas. But of course if you want highest x86 performance actually, then you have to choose Intel.


RE: Glad to see it
By Crank the Planet on 4/22/2011 5:18:46 PM , Rating: 4
I think you are forgetting the whole Itanium fiasco, The Itanium II fiasco, and the recent Sandy Bridge Fiasco. Intel makes a lot of mistakes. Other than speed bumps and improving the pipeline, Intel has had no major innovation since "netburst." They finally copied AMD by putting the M/C on die.

AMD on the other hand has had several innovations, M/C on die, 32/64 bit capability on the same chip, Hyper transport. Fusion is the next level. AMD's purchase of ATI was wise. It cost them a lot, but is now going to be their boon- not just graphics sales (which are kicking butt). The fusion of a powerful GPU on die is incredible. This will eventually lead to GPU computing.

The main reason Intel has enjoyed such a lead for so long is it's strong-arming of companies for world-wide sales. If Intel hadn't done that AMD would have turned the corner a lot sooner. Now that it has watch out. I hear all the time from Intel employees- they are scared of what AMD can do. That's why there is a company policy not to even mention their name- lol

I give it 5 years. In 5 years AMD will come out with a GPU/GPU/CPU combo that will put them on top. They will pay the price for their lack of Vision- LOL


RE: Glad to see it
By acsa77 on 4/22/2011 6:48:41 PM , Rating: 2
Itanium was not a fiasco as big as one believes. It is simply too much specialized. And in hardware cost and performance the x86 could keep up. Anyway, services of mainframes are a much more important issue. And don't forget, that the flexibility of virtualization became very appealing and is very strong with x86 together. The x86 platform was managed from the beginning as an industry platform with open and cheap base infrastructure etc., hence its success. Despite many excellent special platforms.


RE: Glad to see it
By IlllI on 4/22/2011 10:51:27 PM , Rating: 2
more money to soften the blow so to speak.

amd does not have that luxury, so they are under presumably more pressure


RE: Glad to see it
By dubyadubya on 4/24/2011 12:15:43 AM , Rating: 1
Did you vote him down out of spite? I'd say he is right. AMD peaked at the same time Intel stumbled. I'm no Intel fan boy and buy which ever platform has the most bang for the buck in the price range allowed. Could AMD pull a rabbit out of their hat again some day? Sure but will it, we need to wait and see.


RE: Glad to see it
By semiconshawn on 4/24/2011 5:28:18 AM , Rating: 1
Doesn't matter until code catches silicon. Right now everyones top chip will run everything fast.


RE: Glad to see it
By Cubexco on 4/24/2011 5:42:27 PM , Rating: 1
where exactly does Itanium as a 64bit platform stand?
I'm pretty sure AMD64 is nowhere to be found.


RE: Glad to see it
By MarcLeFou on 4/22/2011 10:32:46 AM , Rating: 2
I disagree.

While it certainly isn't an easy task to take on, the split of AMD and GlobalFoundries is exactly what was needed for the GF part to invest heavily in new manufacturing processes. ATIC (GF's owners with AMD) isn't exactly short on funds so they have the money to throw around to try and play catch up to Intel (and maybe even one day surpass them on processes).

And as for architecture, while Intel certainly has some nice artchitecture currently, AMD has proven in the past that they can pull some nice designs that can outcompete intel's. The last decade, they've been mostly held up by their process and some bad execution so if GF can get them on the same ground as Intel process-wise, it'd be interesting to see who can come up with the better designs. I'd be expecting an NVIDIA/ATI situation where one company has the lead for a few generation of products with market disruptions every few years that see a change in leadership. The next few years should be interesting.


RE: Glad to see it
By Manch on 4/22/2011 10:44:41 AM , Rating: 3
Now thAT AMD has spun off it's foundries(ThE Foundry Company?) and in turn they now produce chips for other companies, I dont see why they can't close in on the process part since that's all they do. Now that AMD is soley a chip designer, they should eventually be able to catch up on the architectural side. Plus you need to remember murphys law(almost as important as moores law ha!) as it's tripped up both Intel, AMD, and Nvidia. AMD doesnt need to match Intel clock for clock to be competitive but they do need to eventually produce a chip thats within spitting distance, and with that they can compete on price. If nothing else, a threat to Intels highend will force them to drop prices which is good for us the consumer.


RE: Glad to see it
By acsa77 on 4/22/2011 7:00:37 PM , Rating: 2
Once there was a long, deep insight article about the long-term strategy of ATI already working inside AMD. It was professional and we see the success results. But then I don't understand, why didn't see AMD that Banias, a mobile platform was the right base for all other platforms? They practically lost the notebook blossoming in the last decade and a lot of ground in the server market. Athlon64's pure performance alone was simply not enough. OK, I didn't see it in 2003, but hey, AMD paid professionals to see it in 2001 :)


RE: Glad to see it
By Jeffk464 on 4/22/2011 10:49:23 AM , Rating: 2
Its kind of a toss up really, Intel has had far superior cpu design for a few years but AMD got superior integrated graphics by purchasing ATI. So unless you buy discreet graphics AMD will probably outperform intel in many tasks. This will become more obvious with the pending release of amd's next fusion chips which are basically phenom chips with midrange radeon graphics. These new chips will be very appealing in the $400-$600 dollar range. It seems to me intel is going so fast that they are outpacing nvida and AMD's ability to keep up graphically.


RE: Glad to see it
By Jeffk464 on 4/22/2011 11:40:46 AM , Rating: 2
Forgot to mention even people that only by intel desperately need a healthy AMD to keep intel's prices in check.


RE: Glad to see it
By SPOOFE on 4/24/2011 9:45:01 PM , Rating: 2
Same old "we need AMD" myth. Sorry, but if anything, ARM's newfound market strength indicates the exact opposite: That "Intel vs. AMD" was a false dichotomy, and that if the latter didn't exist, another player would rise up.

At worst, there'd be a couple years of minor stagnation (remember, Intel would still need to compete with itself, otherwise nobody would buy anything and their revenue would dry up) before other processes made a start-up more realistic.


RE: Glad to see it
By Amiga500 on 4/22/2011 11:55:33 AM , Rating: 1
Watch Bulldozer.

Its gonna cream Intel in the server and HPC market.

What AMD may lose out on is the high end desktop and single-thread sensitive server/HPC market (where license costs are per thread).


RE: Glad to see it
By Pirks on 4/22/11, Rating: -1
RE: Glad to see it
By yomamafor1 on 4/23/2011 3:10:05 AM , Rating: 2
I hate to be the devil's advocate, but similar remarks have been made just before K10 hit. Remember how people claimed Barcelona was going to be 40% faster than Intel's offering across the board?

It is probably a good idea to take a wait and see approach. Of course, I don't doubt Dirk Meyer's brilliance in executing the Bulldozer, but I'm not sure it is time to make confident remarks just yet.


RE: Glad to see it
By rburnham on 4/28/2011 5:09:50 PM , Rating: 2
True, Intel dominates at the top, but I have yet to see a reason to spend the extra money on Intel hardware. The performance increase, at least for me, does not justify the cost.


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