RealTime IT News

AMD-ATI 'Fusion' Full Speed Ahead

AMD's $5.4 billion acquisition of graphics chipmaker ATI became official today, and it didn't take long for the Sunnyvale, Calif.-based company to go on the offensive with its product plans.

In a briefing with internetnews.com, AMD  expressed confidence its plans to integrate ATI's technology with its CPU line, a project it calls Fusion, will be a key development for the industry, consumers and corporate computing.

The potential advantages include power savings and lower-cost PCs.

Marty Seyer, senior vice president of AMD's Commercial Business Unit, said the plan is to produce first silicon of the integrated CPU with graphics by late 2008, with products available for shipping in 2009.

"We've proven we know how to integrate technologies and not be disruptive," said Seyer. "We extended the x86 when our competitor said it couldn't be done."

Analysts agree there is a benefit to AMD's plans for integrating graphics, rather than have them on a separate board.

"It's inevitable, there's no question of the value, particularly on the desktop and mobile side," said Mike Feibus, a semiconductor analyst who heads TechKnowledge Strategies. "I have no doubt Intel will go down the same path, it's just a question of timing."

Intel  confirmed its plans to do just that.

"We haven't given a timeframe yet, but we've stated our intention to integrate graphics, we have that capability," said George Alfs, a spokesman for the chip giant. "Intel is the number one provider of graphics solutions in the market and we know graphics."

Analyst Jon Peddie of Jon Peddie Research, said AMD has an advantage over Intel with its integrated memory controller. "Adding graphics isn't going to be trivial, but it'll be easier for AMD than Intel," said Peddie.

"Intel has to get rid of its frontside bus before it can think about integrating graphics, so we don't think they'll even announce anything like what AMD is doing until 2008. We think AMD has a two-year lead on this kind of configuration."

Ironically, while Fusion is about integration, AMD has been touting an initiative it calls Torrenza which is aimed at opening up its processor to third-party developers. But Seyer said Torrenza targets a different problem.

"We want to give the brand back to the OEMs [computer makers] and Torrenza lets them do that," said Seyer. Torrenza solutions will include special-purpose chips designed for such things as improved network and multimedia processing and even Java.

Seyer said AMD plans to push for fast adoption of Fusion in desktop, mobile and servers. "We think if you integrate the CPU and GPU it solves a lot of problems," said Seyer.

Microsoft endorsed the strategy in a statement released today.

"By driving innovation and integration in processing, especially in graphics, the new AMD has the potential to empower breakthrough computing experiences for users of Windows Vista, said Jim Allchin, Co-President of Microsoft's Platforms & Services Division. "We are excited by the potential benefits that this union can bring to enhance the Windows Vista experience."