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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: It's very simple
By mvs on 5/31/2011 3:29:51 AM , Rating: 2
I've heard test chips can hit ~4GHz with ease, 4.5GHz for some. I doubt clocks will be an issue.
AMD has traditionally had trouble with clock speed. I hated when their naming convention with the Athlon's. An Athlon 64 X2 "6000+" had a clock of 3.1GHz. They called it a "6000+" for marketing reasons. Dumb.

Will be gratefully surprised if clocks aren't an issue. Ain't holding my breath though.

RE: It's very simple
By Targon on 5/31/2011 8:37:11 AM , Rating: 2
That naming convention came from the days of the Pentium 4, when people would see "2.4GHz" from a Pentium 4, and assume that it was faster than a comparable AMD processor that was as fast overall, but had a lower clock speed. The problem was that as time went on, the rating system broke down and AMD eventually dropped it since Intel was no longer pushing clock speed as the way to measure performance.

RE: It's very simple
By adiposity on 5/31/2011 1:46:09 PM , Rating: 2
The problem was that as time went on, the rating system broke down and AMD eventually dropped it since Intel was no longer pushing clock speed as the way to measure performance.

No, the problem was that as time went on, AMD became less and less competitive, but they didn't accurately reflect this in their "performance" model numbers. As they fell further behind, they resorted more to gaming these model numbers, since they were under no obligation to accurately measure their comparative performance.

They lost a lot of credibility during that time. Eventually they had to drop the program because

a). It didn't reflect performance
b). It made them seem desperate.

RE: It's very simple
By 4745454b on 5/31/2011 9:11:00 PM , Rating: 2
New article on the front page.

Current B1 stepping parts are easily hitting 3.8GHz which is what the high end SKU may actually ship at (with turbo support up to 4.2GHz).

My pure guess, B1 can do it, but at a very high Vcore. B2 will probably milk a bit more out of it, but will do so at a lower voltage. AMD is holding off as they don't want to release a bunch of 140W parts again.

RE: It's very simple
By mvs on 6/1/2011 5:54:26 AM , Rating: 2
Interesting. BD built on 32nm SOI process with HKMG (finally). I wonder if GF has new mgt. pushing them to improve their process technology. Almost seems out of character 8)

There may be light at the end of the tunnel after-all. Thanks for the link.

"You can bet that Sony built a long-term business plan about being successful in Japan and that business plan is crumbling." -- Peter Moore, 24 hours before his Microsoft resignation

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