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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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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


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