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Cheap small notebooks and netbooks, like the HP dm1Z have powered Fusion to massive sales, taking rival Intel Corp. by shock.  (Source: Netbook Live)

AMD's Fusion is a mid-market powerhouse that Intel has no direct answer to in terms of price and performance. Atom is too weak; Sandy Bridge is too expensive.  (Source: Funimation/Toei)
Company sold 5 million chips since the Fusion platform's launch at the start of 2011

As if Intel Corp. (INTC) needed any more bad news after all the grief ARM Holdings plc (ARMH) is giving it, it appears that Advanced Micro Devices, Inc. (AMD) may be closing the gap in notebook and netbook sales.

Late last month, Microsoft's Bill Koefoed, general manager of investor relations, reported "a 40 percent decline in Netbooks" in Q1 2011.  In Q1 2010, netbooks sold about 10 million units, so this indicates that about 6 million netbooks sold in January, February, and April.  If that pace were sustained, through May around 10 million netbooks would have sold.

AMD's Raymond Dumbeck announced this week that AMD sold 5 million "Fusion" chips in the first five months of the year.  AMD's Fusion chips went into a mix of 10-, 11-, and 12-inch notebooks.  Given that the line between a "netbook" and "ultra-portable PC"/"small PC" lies somewhere in 11-12 inch range it seems like a fair guess that A.MD sold about 3 million "netbooks" -- or about a third of the total market (~10 million units)

That's incredible news for AMD which traditionally had little sales success in the mobile sector and virtually no sales in the netbook sector.

The flip side of the AMD victory is that Intel's ultra-mobile Atom processor appears to have bled a great deal of market share in a very short time.  Atom has suffered as AMD reportedly undercut it with Fusion and delivered a superior on-chip GPU compared to Intel's solution.

Intel's only saving grace has been that the rush to Fusion has taken AMD somewhat as surprised.  Mr. Dumbeck comments that the company is currently sold out of its existing stocks.  That shortage slowed sales from approximately 3.9 million in the first quarter to a mere 1.1 million the next two months.

That brief reprieve for Intel may be short-lived, though.  AMD is reportedly working to increase shipment of existing Fusion processors, as well as widening the channel to include new models.

AMD's current Fusion CPUs fall into the Brazos family, which feature the company's new mobile Bobcat core.  They are split between Ontario, which features lower power consumption and lower clock speeds, and Zacate, which features slightly higher power requirements and clock speeds.  Both Brazos flavors are built on a 40 nm process.

The company is preparing to ship a new type of Fusion "advanced processing unit" (APU) codenamed Llano.  Llano packs a beefier K10 core (found in the Phenom II and Athlon II processor lines), but a die shrink to 32 nm should help to mitigate the power bump, slightly.  The processors are expected to come in dual core and quad core varieties and fall between 25 watts and 100 watts in power consumption.

Intel doesn't exactly have a new processor that can compete at the same market point as Llano.  Atom will be much weaker than Llano.  Sandy Bridge will be much more powerful, but will also be more expensive.  The lack of a mid-market CPU offering from Intel should help Llano see strong sales when it begins shipping early next month.

Brazos has clearly exceeded AMD's wildest expectations.  With support from Dell Inc. (DELL), Sony Corp. (TYO:6758), Acer Inc. (TPE:2353), Hewlett-Packard Company (HPQ), and Lenovo Group Ltd. (HKG:0992) AMD's Fusion project is seriously threatening Intel's netbook and notebook processor offerings.

With 28 nm enhanced Bobcat 1-4 core models and 32 nm 2-4 core Bulldozer based models due out next year, AMD clearly hopes to continue to apply the performance pressure on Intel's Atom line and pricing pressure on Intel's Sandy Bridge line.

As with its success in the GPU market, AMD's turn-around owes to the company shifting its focus to the consumer budget and mid-market sectors, versus the traditional enthusiast race that it has waged versus competitors in the GPU and CPU markets.  A company focusing on the majority of consumers, versus a select few?  What a novel thought!  But it sure appears to be working for AMD.

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RE: Nvidia
By SPOOFE on 5/30/2011 9:45:39 PM , Rating: -1
No competition, no low prices for us, consumers.

Total myth. AMD's death would do nothing but create an opportunity for somebody else.

RE: Nvidia
By Targon on 5/30/2011 10:05:02 PM , Rating: 5
This is also a false conclusion. The difficulty in designing a CPU that is fairly competitive is so high, it would be virtually impossible for a new player to enter that particular market. The key is all in the compatibility that people demand, so that existing software will work on the new chip.

Basically, if AMD, which has a TON of experience in this area, can't compete, we will NOT see a competitor enter the market. Most start-up companies come in with millions to spend on the initial R&D, compared with the $100 BILLION that would be needed to even make an attempt at getting into the x86 market. Chip fabrication ability is where AMD has had the greatest difficulty, since a 32nm version of the Phenom 2 would have allowed AMD to release a faster chip before now, and going from 32nm down to 22nm is a huge increase in fab complexity. Yes, AMD split off the fab business, but who do you think is going to make processors for AMD, some other company that also can't compete with Intel?

RE: Nvidia
By SPOOFE on 5/30/11, Rating: -1
RE: Nvidia
By p3ngwin on 5/31/2011 12:45:14 AM , Rating: 2
Basically, if AMD, which has a TON of experience in this area, can't compete, we will NOT see a competitor enter the market

also a false conclusion.

An example would be Nvidia and their recent entry into the ARM processor market.

Nvidia had zero experience with ARM architectures, yet since Nvidia's first ARM chips in 2009 they have been first with dual-core ARM chips and even first with quad-core.

They beat all other ARM licensees who have had as much as a decade each head-start on Nvidia. Qualcomm is one of the most successful ARM licensees, with their ARM chips in the majority of most smart/phones for over a decade.

Nvidia beat them to multicore within 2 years of starting from scratch. then did it again with quad-core. Nvidia is demonstrating working silicone of it's Kal-El quad-core ARM-based processors at this year's COMPUTEX (currently running), yet where are the similar chips from the other ARM licensees ?

Nvidia is also aggressively (as is their style) perusing their project "Denver". an ARM based processor for more powerful markets such as laptops, desktops and even servers. no other ARM licensee is even thinking of putting ARM in those markets.

If AMD were to die tomorrow, somebody would happily step in and buy up the juicy patents and enter the processor market, or infuse an existing processor company with even more resources.

RE: Nvidia
By mvs on 5/31/2011 4:01:46 AM , Rating: 2
I disagree. Examine some of the market parallels. Look at how many commercial airplane manufacturers there are. Or how many railroad locomotive manufacturers. Or how many space launch vehicles. Intel vs. AMD is fairly unique.
Nvidia had zero experience with ARM architectures
Nvidia didn't just start yesterday. Check out
posted Feb. 11, 2008 it talks about the APX 2500. Basically the start of the Tegra line.

There is also a difference between being an ARM licensee and having an x86 license [which doesn't exist, AMD being the lone exception].

If you read
the exclusivity the x86 market has enjoyed appears to be coming to an end. Windows 8 will run on other architectures w/ Microsoft's blessing and support.
If AMD were to die tomorrow, somebody would happily step in and buy up the juicy patents
yeah, even somebody like Intel.

RE: Nvidia
By encia on 5/31/2011 7:30:36 PM , Rating: 2
If you read

"Update for Windows 7 Server Beta for Itanium-based Systems"

Since Windows NT Itanium line is EOL, ARM version can replace this non-X86 Windows NT line.

"Paying an extra $500 for a computer in this environment -- same piece of hardware -- paying $500 more to get a logo on it? I think that's a more challenging proposition for the average person than it used to be." -- Steve Ballmer

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