In Depth: The future of AMD: consoles, tablets and hybrids

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The traditional COMPUTER market is moving. You’ve actually only got to review the big growth in Android devices to see that. The big rise in ARM-powered computing gadgets has definitely been a shock to the system for processor giant Intel as well as more so for its traditional x86 competitor AMD.

Kevin Lensing, AMD’s head of mobility, was fairly honest in his assessment of the marketplace at a recent AMD occasion attended by TechRadar. “Going back to 2000, you could review the graph and indicate 15 % growth in the marketplace [every year] It was constantly there and we put brand-new items in the market that were better every year, ” he says.

Getting left behind

AMD’s success story “levelled off” in 2010 and afterwards, as Lensing states, “we actually started to decline. There was a lot of head-scratching. ” Naturally, he criticizes tablets for the decrease rather than AMD’s own issues, such as efficiency problems and Intel’s giant share of the notebook market.

“It’s not especially challenging to comprehend when you [consider] iOS and Android. The tablet area truly has actually taken control of the development pipeline.

“That 15 % development is still there, but it’s [about various other gadgets] now. So the concern is exactly what the PC ecological community is visiting do about it. I think there’s a chance and AMD is in an one-of-a-kind position to alter this direction. “

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Lensing says that the old ecological community had to do with cinemas, x86 performance and getting things done while newer, tablet-based environments are concentrated on smaller screens and interactivity. The brand-new way is about experiences and how things look and feel. And interaction, once a small feature of what a COMPUTER can do, is at the heart of most devices now.

Lensing feels that AMD – together with the standard COMPUTER sector as a whole – needs to move on, knuckle down and get a share of the marketplace: “We need better displays and software that does not slow you down, ” he states, likewise making the point that reduced power tablets can’t constantly provide the performance that people desire.

The potential for AMD

Interestingly, Lensing says that tablets have “lost their ability” to innovate in graphics – though it’s questionable if tablets ever before had that ability in the first place. And afterwards there’s compute power. “They are coming up from the bottom [in regards to performance per watt] as Windows gadgets are boiling down the power curve. The fascinating thing is they’ll meet in the middle. Which’s where the genuine opportunity is for us. “

Lensing thinks that while the app models are there for iOS and Android, the hardware still has a long method to go to have the ability to compete with the PC at the top level. And that leaves the door open for power efficient but performance-centric x86 silicon in tablet kind factors.

The changing market

While Lensing is keen for AMD move on, it’s Dr Lisa Su’s task to make it occur. She’s head of AMD’s global network marketing business facilities and suggests convincingly that the company is advancing. “We are reshaping the company,” she says.

“You constantly knew AMD as a CPU business which’s exactly what we were. But review how the world is altering, PC market is altering, how the applications are altering, how OEMs are altering. We have actually reviewed exactly what we want to be in 5 years. ”

Su states that AMD wants to build on the success of its tailored options department – in essence it wants to take advantage of the opportunity presented by consoles, not least its involvement in both the Sony PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. “We really wish to be the leading designer and integrator of customized options, ” she says.

“We truly believe [customized solutions are] a big growth market for us in the future. Why’s that? Since every OEM is trying to find a method to separate. Utilizing basic parts it’s difficult to distinguish. The PlayStation 4 uses AMD’s APU with eight Jaguar cores, over 1.8 TFLOPS of next-gen Radeon graphics – combining the PC ecosystem and the gaming environment. ”

AMD belives the APU is the future of computing

A crucial part of AMD’s technique is that APUs are the future. “This is something that’s really clear, ” says Su. “We have been discussing the APU for a number of years, but it’s still very new and it’s a crucial architecture, the bringing together of the CPU and GPU. This is our 3rd generation, Llano, Trinity and now Richland. If you look at where the competitors is going, they’ve taken some of our concepts, but our dedication to the integration of processor and graphics is leading in the sector. “

Su is honest when she states not everyone shares AMD’s positive outlook over systems: “I’d state that I love this business for a few reasons. First, high volume, over 100 million systems – that’s a really good market. Second, it’s definitely playing into our sweet spot – we have stated APUs are the center of our world.

“This is an application that’s taken an APU architecture and tailored it for this application. A 3rd point is that it truly enables us to bring applications to a different level. Prior to we’d designers establishing for the COMPUTER ecological community and the gaming ecological community.

“They were architecturally various, so EA or any other developer had to divide their resources over both environments. ”

AMD says that by bringing those architectures more detailed together – although they are not the exact same, they’re similar – it allows the company to develop the next generation of its Radeon graphics.

Lensing was certainly eager to advertise AMD’s now-released ultra-low power quad-core platform for tablets and small touchscreen Windows 8 laptops named Temash. The dual and quad-core chips are designed to slot in above Intel’s Clover Trail Atom platform in efficiency terms. AMD is intending them directly at Windows 8 tablet and hybrid devices where they’ll be branded as the AMD A4 and AMD A6.

AMD will increase revenue from custom solutions, as in consoles

But AMD’s problem, as ever, is getting makers to take its hardware given the golden handcuff arrangements many producers have with Intel. Yet Lensing is bullish. “We have sold over 50 million [previous generation] Brazos chips. We are really confident we are visiting be doing the exact same with Kabini. We took an item that individuals thought would compete with Atom, but we took it up against the low end of the mainstream market. “

Growth segments

Su does appear a note that the old AMD has not gone away. “The COMPUTER mlm business does have high-growth sections and [the marketplace is] still delivering over 300 million units a year, ” she says.

“It’s a good company, however it’s dealing with some difficulties. In graphics we’ve undiputed graphics management and it goes through all our [products] – it’s really vital for us to have that. We see a great deal of growth in the server market and AMD is in an unique position to provide both x86 and ARM server type elements. “

But Su is specific that AMD’s reliance on traditional computing will decline. “Traditional computing is constantly going to belong of AMD’s mlm business, but our technology can go further. And that’s really where we are concentrating on AMD over the next few years. Today more than 80 % of our network marketing business is the COMPUTER business opportunity but by the end of 2013 embedded and semi-custom will be 20 % of our mlm business. “