AMD Has a Full Plate in 06

Company hopes to make a name in the commercial client space.

Chip maker advanced Micro Devices Inc. continued the momentum generated last year by the Opteron and Athlon 64, particularly by beating rival Intel Corp. in releasing dual-core processors. This year, company officials expect to continue to push that technological advantage. Dirk Meyer, president and chief operating officer of AMDs Microprocessor Solutions Sector, recently spoke with eWEEK News Editor Dennis Fisher and Senior Editor Jeffrey Burt in the companys Austin, Texas, offices about the commercial client space, meeting customer expectations and Dell Inc.

Can you give us your thoughts as AMD enters 2006?

I think 2005 was a year that, as a company, we were very happy [with] the processor business. ... I like to talk about Opteron as the thin edge of the wedge relative to our penetration into the commercial space, and when we talk about 2006, one of the things we think about is the opportunities were going to have in the client side of the commercial marketplace. Thats not to say that we dont expect to continue to gain share in the server space. We do. But contrast 06 with 05 in that well be thinking much more about making our commercial client business really start to ramp.

How are you going to do that?

The first thing youve got to do is get design wins, and as we talked about in our [Nov. 15] analyst conference ... about the incremental number of client platforms well have out on the market next year. The next step is to start to generate familiarity of the platforms across ... the ecosystem, which consists of both end users and the channel from which they buy. The latter is a set of activities weve had in flight ... for the last several quarters, which is developing relationships with systems resellers and VARs, systems integrators, and so on to make better known who we are, what the value proposition for the platforms is, the advantages that the channel players have. ... Thats where well continue to focus in the next year.

How well-positioned are you right now for this move into the [commercial] client space? Are these design wins in the pipeline, or are you still in negotiations with systems makers?

Im confident enough that we have enough that will be showing up [in 2006], so well be reasonably able to substantiate a move in our share. But keep in mind our share is very low, so consider the total commercial client opportunity thats served through top-tier OEMs; we barely participate in that business at all.

So, how do you differentiate?

In the near term, we still have in Athlon [64] and Athlon [64] X2 a platform thats going to have a fair amount of longevity from a software stack perspective. Its 64 bits today. Thats a selling point thats starting to resonate with people.

The other benefit is just the idea that competition is good, and the commercial client space is an area where, generally speaking, there hasnt been [competition].

How well-positioned is AMD in the mobile space?

Mobile is a huge growth opportunity for us from a product category perspective for two reasons. One, its the fastest- growing of the three product categories: server, desktop and mobile. Two, its the area where we have the smallest share. Im not apologetic about the fact that we have the smallest share in that category. If you look at our history, we were and still are way smaller than our competition, so we focused on a smaller number of categories—desktop, desktop, desktop. We then focused incrementally on server. Next will be mobile.

AMD has said that it will not offer an entire package, similar to Intels Centrino. That said, youve begun to work closely with a select group of partners to create recommended wireless packages. Can you talk about that?

First off, contrast it to what Intel is doing, which is one of—with varying specificity—youve got to buy Centrino. Thats not what were doing. If you take wireless LAN, for example, we dont want to tell the customer exactly which wireless LAN they should use. However, having said that, we recognize that what our customers do want is to buy a solution with a lot of the engineering done upfront. So, were trying to act a lot more actively as the point for a platform solution that we can offer an OEM hand in hand with partners.

How important is Dell to AMDs long-range plans?

In the near term, its not very critical for achieving the goals that we have in the next year or two, and the reason for that is, if you look at the two big business opportunities that weve defined for ourselves, one is commercial, which is a gigantic existing marketplace where we are way underrepresented. The other is so-called consumer digital media.

In the commercial space, were still just so small that we have lots of opportunities for growth inside of our current customer base, so, near term, we dont need Dell to grow substantially.

Obviously, weve been saying our goal is to break Intels monopoly, and they do have a monopoly. Our goal is to break it and change for the better the whole dynamic in the industry. In order to do that as fully as we want to do that, it would sure be better to have Dell.