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AMD moves away from Alchemy and Geode, but hints at more powerful embedded solutions

According to several reports, AMD announced that it will be closing down its embedded microprocessor design facility in Longmont, Colorado. Back in 2003, AMD purchased the facility from National Semiconductor that was working on a system-on-chip processor families. These original Geode embedded processors were x86 compatible processors that were used in devices such as handhelds, competing with Intel's line of ARM architecture XScale processors.

AMD will be cutting roughly 75 jobs from the Longmont location, while another 75 jobs from the same location will be relocated to Ft. Collins, Colorado. According to reports, AMD plans the Ft. Collins location close to where HP has its location.

Closing of the Geode facility marks AMD's second closure of embedded microprocessors as the company previously announced that it sold the Alchemy division to Raza Microelectronics. Interestingly, AMD did not comment on whether or not it would outright sell its Geode division. The Geode processors were known to be more powerful than the Alchemy processors, although they are also generally more expensive. In fact, AMD's Geode NX processor was based on a mobile Athlon processor running at 667MHz to 1.4GHz. According to Erick Salo, AMD's director of marketing for embedded processors, closing the Geode facility was "a design focus decision, rather than a decision about product lines."

Intel this year also sold its XScale division to Marvell for $600 million. The transition Intel said, would take roughly four months to complete. AMD's announcement of the Alchemy line separation came around roughly the same time as Intel's announcement, and the new details about its Geode line seems to confirm AMD's change of focus. Salo indicated that customers showed interest in embedded processors derived from its highly successful Opteron processors. "There is a lot of opportunity there," Salo said.


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RE: Count me in as a "customer showing interest"
By TomZ on 7/19/2006 3:16:08 PM , Rating: 3
quote:
Given the excellent performance/watt of the 1GHz A64 1500+ (yes, it exists, exclusively in HP blades) making some embedded chips off that tangent would be a great plan

I disagree, for two reasons. First, you still won't get power consumption down to where it needs to be with that type of processor, for a device that needs to work a whole day or a week on a battery charge. Performance/watt is one thing, but you also have to look at absolute power consumption, which has to be absolutely minimized in applications like cell phones and PDAs.

Second, the embedded market has no requirement for x86 instruction set architecture in most applications. These systems are developed with C/C++, and have no requirement for BIOS, DOS, Windows, or chipset compatibility. Thus the reason for the dominance of non-x86 architectures in the embedded market, e.g., PowerPC, ARM, DSPs, 8051 family, Zilog, PIC, etc., generally with much lower power consumption than an x86 counterpart.

In my opinion, Geode is being shut down or divested because it can't compete in the embedded market.


By MercenaryForHire on 7/19/2006 3:29:19 PM , Rating: 1
"Embedded" does not always equal "handheld/PDA/cellphone."


By TomZ on 7/19/2006 10:30:47 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
"Embedded" does not always equal "handheld/PDA/cellphone."

That's very true, but outside of that space the battery requirement drops out but the x86 requirement still doesn't drop in. I only see x86 in some applications like industrial control where PC hardware is re-used in small form factors like PC/104 in order to leverage PC development tools. Beyond that, x86 is too inefficient to be able to compete with other architectures like PowerPC, ARM, etc. in high-volume applications, because they are simpler, cheaper, and also typically include a bunch of on-board peripherals that are specialized for a particular task (e.g., engine control). The low end of the microcontroller market is really competitive, and x86 offerings have no traction there.


RE: Count me in as a "customer showing interest"
By encia on 7/20/2006 7:52:38 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
Thus the reason for the dominance of non-x86 architectures in the embedded market, e.g., PowerPC, ARM, DSPs, 8051 family, Zilog, PIC, etc., generally with much lower power consumption than an x86 counterpart.

According to
http://www.tundra.com/NewsRoom/PressReleases/2005/...
With ~60 million p.a. unit sales(2004/2005), PowerPC hardly dominates the embedded market compared MIPS and ARM.


By TomZ on 7/20/2006 9:42:06 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
PowerPC hardly dominates the embedded market compared MIPS and ARM.

I didn't say that PowerPC dominates the market compared to MIPS and ARM. I said that all these architectures together dominate the market relative to x86. I think many people not familiar with the embedded market might not realize this, since they are used to x86 total dominance in PCs. In embedded systems, almost the complete opposite is true.


RE: Count me in as a "customer showing interest"
By encia on 7/20/2006 7:58:41 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
In my opinion, Geode is being shut down or divested because it can't compete in the embedded market.


Factor in "AMD Efficeon". Reference from
http://www.amd.com/us-en/Corporate/VirtualPressRoo...


RE: Count me in as a "customer showing interest"
By TomZ on 7/20/2006 9:43:36 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
Factor in "AMD Efficeon".

What market share has this processor/family achieved?


RE: Count me in as a "customer showing interest"
By encia on 7/21/2006 12:10:56 AM , Rating: 2
What was "AMD Efficeon" release date?


RE: Count me in as a "customer showing interest"
By TomZ on 7/21/2006 10:30:34 AM , Rating: 2
OK, so that is a future product. So zero market share.

Your implication is that AMD is not throwing in the towel in the x86 embedded market. Again, in that market, why is x86 even a requirement? Those machines will probably not run Windows, so x86 is not needed. Therefore, this opens up the possibility that those machines instead get lower-cost ARM-based processors, for example, and AMD will again compete with the entire set of embedded processor vendors for the potentially hundreds of thousands of units. Why will they succeed where they have failed in the past? What is different now?


By Torched on 7/21/2006 1:16:56 PM , Rating: 2
I can say for sure that AMD has not thrown in the towel. First, they guarantee 5yr lifespan on all the embedded products. Next, take a look at the GeodeLX adoption rate: http://www.amd.com/us-en/Corporate/VirtualPressRoo...
It seems companies are still designing the LX into new products. The closing will affect new designs not current ones. Most likely, as sugessted by a few, the embedded division will now be working on new low-end opteron design. They just closed the office and moved employees, not sold the division like the alchemy processors.


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