AMD Mum on 2008 Product Roadmap

While officials touted quad-core numbers during a Jan. 17 quarterly call, they offered few details on AMD's products and its "asset lite" strategy.

While Advanced Micro Devices CEO Hector Ruiz and President Dirk Meyer spent most of Jan. 17 explaining the company's latest disappointing financial situation to analysts, the two executives spent little time on AMD's 2008 product roadmap.

Although AMD has suffered through five straight losing financial quarters, the chip maker has put its faith in new products that it hopes will help it rebound by the second half of the year.

However, during the call to announce the company's net loss of $1.77 billion in the fourth quarter of 2007, Ruiz and Meyer spent little time talking about new products, including the company's new mobile platform, dubbed "Puma," which is expected to hit the market in the second quarter. Meyer did note that AMD now has 100 design wins from OEMs eager to adopt the new platform.

What executives did want to talk about is that AMD is making good on its promise to bring its quad-core processors, which had suffered due to some technical glitches, into the market. In the quarter, AMD managed to ship about 400,000 quad-core chips, and Meyer said AMD shipped two Phenom desktop processors for everyone one Opteron chip for servers.

Higher performing quad-core processors with better clock speeds are also expected to begin shipping by the second quarter. The company is also gearing up to ship its triple-core processor, which executives believe has more mainstream appeal compared to a quad-core processor that is better suited for gamers and high-end PCs.

AMD also reported that its whole microprocessor unit increased its revenue by 11 percent compared to the third quarter. At the same time, its server revenue increased by 22 percent, which the company said was driven by the quad-core Opterons.

While the executives did not further illuminate AMD's roadmap, the quarterly report did show analysts that the company had at least gained some momentum after stumbling for most of 2007. The numbers might also show that AMD gained some market share from Intel in the quarter.

"A strong server product line, along with the on-time delivery of higher-performing graphics processors and Phenom desktop chips, will buoy AMD in 2008," John Spooner, an analyst with Technology Business Research, wrote in a research note.

During the call, Meyer added that AMD is preparing its first 45-nanometer quad-core products and plans to bring those into the market by the second half of the year. Meyer said the company is confident that it would deliver the first of these chips, called "Shanghai," on time. Intel has been producing its own line of 45-nm chips, called Penryn, since November.

Another piece missing from AMD's overall picture is an initiative called "asset lite," or "asset smart," which is meant to help the company with its manufacturing output. Ruiz declined to answer any questions about the initiative other than to say that AMD is making progress toward its goals.

The company also has strengthened its ties with both Charter Semiconductor and IBM to help with chip development, but it's not clear how those relationships will fit in with the asset smart program.

The lack of details has frustrated some analysts and industry watchers.

"We continue to find it difficult to quantitatively outline what exactly fab/asset smart/lite would entail," Doug Freedman, an analyst with American Technology Research, wrote in a research note.

"As a result, when we look at our model, we don't have a high degree of confidence that the business model will be similar in six months. We note that while the company may receive a near-term benefit from fab-lite, we believe the first 12-18 month transition period could entail many fits and starts and increase customer skepticism about AMD's road map and product reliability."