AMD Making Push Into Commercial PC Market
AMD is taking steps to build a commercial PC chip business starting with the first chips in the Pro A-Series family—the five-core (two CPU cores and three graphic cores) A6 Pro 7050B, and the A8 7150B and A10 7305B, both of which hold 10 cores (four CPU and six GPU). The APUs all come with high-end integrated Radeon R4 or R6 graphics capabilities, offer greater performance than AMD's consumer chips and include a range of manageability and security features that are important to businesses, Kapoor said. In addition, the Pro A-Series chips offer businesses the investment protection they need, with a 24-month lifecycle and 18-month image stability, support for AMD's Eyefinity technology—which enables systems to connect to up to four displays—and Heterogeneous System Architecture (HSA), which enables the CPU and GPU to share memory and data and leads to increased efficiency. AMD officials also are dedicating more sales resources to the commercial client effort as the company looks to court top OEMs. In the past, AMD took a relatively passive approach with the system makers, essentially selling the chips to vendors like Hewlett-Packard and Lenovo and leaving it to them to decide what PCs to put them into, Kapoor said. The result at times would be AMD processors being put into lower-end systems. With more dedicated sales resources and APUs with more enterprise-level features, AMD is now working with the OEMs to get its chips into business-class systems, he said. The chip maker has had some success: HP features four EliteBook commercial notebooks that are powered by AMD's A6 or A10 processors. Lenovo also offers AMD-powered PCs—including the ThinkPad X410e thin-and-light system and the E545 business notebook (with an A10 chip). The chip maker also is courting Dell, Kapoor said.In a market dominated by Intel, finding room in commercial PCs isn't easy, according to Kapoor. But the expectation is that enough business customers will want what the Pro A-Series chips offer—from the high-end integrated graphics (which is important, given the increasing graphical nature of commercial workloads) to the lower prices—that OEMs will bring out new AMD-based PCs to meet the demand. And getting those system makers on board will be a key challenge, according to Bob O'Donnell, chief analyst for market research firm TECHnalysis Research. "What's most important, at the end of the day, is getting HP, Lenovo and Dell—who really count—to get on board," O'Donnell told eWEEK. However, AMD's focus on business PCs makes sense, given the resurgence in the segment, he said, noting that he expects demand for commercial systems to remain high for several years. "Their timing is very good because we are seeing a commercial refresh," O'Donnell said. "It will have some legs because there are a lot of very old commercial PCs out there. It's a good time to get into the commercial market." There are challenges, not the least of which is convincing the world's top three system vendors to increase their use of AMD chips—or in Dell's case, to use any of them. However, a viable alternative to Intel chips would be attractive to OEMs and end users alike, he said. "It's always good to have competition in terms of both pricing and negotiations," O'Donnell said. "Those are all good things."
"We want AMD Pro to stand out in those top-of-the-line systems," he said.