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AMD: Ready for a comeback

Posted: 07 Feb 2012 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:CPU? embedded processor? reference design?

In its annual meeting with financial analysts meeting, Advanced Micro Devices Inc. revealed not only its new offerings but its new roadmap as well.

AMD added two ultralow power processors that target the tablet market. The company also rolled out an ultrabook design in its Trinity notebook that could undercut prices of Intel-based systems based on 32nm.

Another device that will be released this year is Hondo, a 40nm processor for tablets. Hondo will be followed by Temash, a 28nm chip that will be released in 2013 and integrates a south bridge. According to the company's new lineup of executives, Temash is the first example of AMD's new corporate focus, which is SoCs for hot markets rather than brawny CPUs built in the latest process technology.

"We don't want to be on bleeding edge of technology, leading with our chin and not deliverthat breaks trust," said Rory Read, who joined AMD five months ago as chief executive.

Rory Read

Read: We don't want to be on bleeding edge of technology, leading with our chin and not deliver.

"We've been pulled along by the gravitational force of this unhealthy [x86] duopoly," said Read. "I came to AMD because we see an inflection point coming now where price points will shift and we can deliver architectures that play to our hand," he said.

The tablet CPUs should be no surprise. Read's predecessor, Dirk Meyer, lost his position as CEO when the board decided, among other things, he was moving too slowly into the new mobile market.

In a high octane talk, Read said the new AMD will be about building trust around execution. Products will be built in an upgraded SoC design methodology now in the works under new chief technology officer Mark Papermaster.

Lisa Suwho like Read and Papermaster spent significant time at IBMhas the responsibility of defining those products. Her job, Read said, is not to leapfrog what's on Intel's road map but respond to demands from OEMs.

That said, one of the highlights of the event was an ultrabook reference design made by Taiwan's Compal. The system packs AMD's Trinity chip into an 18mm-thick case and could sell for as little as $599, potentially undercutting Intel Ivy Bridge ultrabooks by a hundred dollars or more.

Lisa Su

Lisa Su with the Compal-made Trinity notebook.

Trinity provides about 20 percent more CPU and 30 percent more GPU performance than Llano, AMD's first processor to merge x86 and GPU die. AMD sold about 10 million Llano chips last year, in part constrained by a now-solved hiccup in GlobalFoundries' fab.

So far, Trinity design wins are "tracking at a higher rate" than Llano did in 2011, said Su. The chip will come in three packages including a low cost BGA, and it supports simultaneous links to two displays, a new feature for notebook CPUs.

Trinity design

A closer look at the 18mm-thin Trinity reference design.

The new road maps
AMD also plans this year an upgrade for its 40nm Brazos notebook chip, adding USB 3 support and a turbo core mode. AMD sold 30 million Brazos chips in 2011, its big success last year.

The big additions to the client road map are the tablet processors, the company's first sub-5W x86 chips. Temash, the 2013 chip, will include an upgraded x86 core called Jaguar.

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