Advanced Micro Devices has plans for new PC and graphics offerings that will help the chip maker take advantage of what officials say are encouraging signs in the technology industry for later this year and into 2010.
Speaking at the Citi Investment Global Technology Conference in New York City Sept. 9, AMD President and CEO Dirk Meyer said that the feedback he is getting from customers regarding near-term purchases has been positive, giving him hope that the company and the rest of the industry is moving away from the economic disaster that was the first half of 2009.
“We’re encouraged by the way the market is moving forward,” Meyer said of the PC market during a half-hour question-and-answer presentation. “We’re getting a more positive world view from our customers.”
He said new offerings that AMD has planned for the last few months of 2009 will let it take advantage of any upticks in the market.
For example, AMD is preparing the release of its “Congo” offering, its second-generation platform release for the ultrathin notebook market. The first generation, dubbed “Yukon,” was offered exclusively through Hewlett-Packard, Meyer said. However, Congo will be offered through other OEMs as well, and already AMD has more than 20 design wins from other systems makers.
He also talked about “Istanbul,” AMD’s six-core Opteron server processor that he said is gaining traction in two parts of the market-among systems with four sockets and in high-density, cloud computing environments. AMD on Aug. 31 introduced the 40-watt EE version of Istanbul, to go along with the 75- and 55-watt models.
Next year, AMD is planning the launch of 12-core Opterons, dubbed “Magny-Cours,” which also will feature improved memory capabilities and HyperTransport features, Meyer said. Magny-Cours will help AMD leapfrog Intel, which currently offers the six-core “Dunnington” Xeons, but this fall will roll out the eight-core “Nehalem EX” processors for systems with four or more sockets.
Intel in March launched the quad-core Xeon 5500 Series “Nehalem EP” chips for one- or two-socket servers.
AMD next year also will offer DDR 3 memory. Officials have said they are sticking with DDR 2 for now because of the high cost of DDR 3.
Meyer said he also is encouraged by AMD’s growth in the graphics business. Three years after buying graphics processing unit vendor ATI for $5.4 billion, AMD in May announced it was merging its CPU and GPU businesses. The company is also working toward the release of its DX11 graphics cards.
While he downplayed the aggressive push by rival Nvidia to make GPUs more attractive to most general-purpose computing workloads, Meyer did say that there are workloads that can be moved to GPUs, which are more energy-efficient than CPUs and which can put more processing cores on each chip.
That also is a key distinction from Intel, which Meyer said wants to keep workloads primarily on CPUs.
Goal: Bringing AMD Back to Profitability
Speaking of the company in general, Meyer said his goal is still to bring the AMD back to profitability and that there are a number of factors in play that can help him do that.
One is the decision to spin off its manufacturing operations, resulting in the Globalfoundries, which is a joint venture with Abu Dhabi-owned ATIC (Advanced Technology Investment Co.). That business got a boost Sept. 8 when ATIC announced that Globalfoundries is buying Chartered Semiconductor Manufacturing for $1.8 billion.
The move drove up AMD’s stock price by more than 15 percent and holds out the promise that Globalfoundries will grow its customer base. Currently, AMD is Globalfoundries’ primary customer, and more customers coming in will mean that AMD’s financial commitment to the company will lessen, Meyer said.
The deal is a good one for both ATIC and Globalfoundries, he said, adding that it won’t impact the chip-licensing agreement AMD has with rival Intel. Globalfoundries and Chartered will remain separate entities, though ATIC officials talked about taking advantage of the technologies of both companies.
Intel officials have questioned whether AMD spinning off its manufacturing business and its joint agreement with ATIC would impact the agreement, which allows both companies to build products based on the x86 architecture.
Some in the audience questioned whether Meyer was being overly optimistic about his goals for AMD’s business, particularly given its recent poor financial results. AMD in July announced that it lost $330 million in the second quarter.
Meyer said AMD will have a better idea of the overall picture for the year after the third-quarter numbers are in, and that he sees opportunities in such areas as midrange and high-end PCs, where he says AMD is underserved.
He also talked about the company’s move to a 32-nanometer manufacturing process.