RealTime IT News

AMD's Ambitious Platform Designs

AMD Roadmap
SUNNYVALE, Calif. -- OK, so the economy stinks and market leader Intel just slashed its fourth-quarter revenue estimates by more than $1 billion. Yet smaller rival AMD isn't letting the current business climate bring it down.

Instead, the company put on a feisty presentation here at its financial analysts meeting, showing that it's ready to take on a two-front war with Intel (NASDAQ: INTC) and graphics player nVidia in spite of the economic gloom.

After eight consecutive quarters of losses, AMD (NYSE: AMD) has retrenched under its new CEO, Dirk Meyer, and now says it's looking at a return to profitability and positive cash flow -- a claim that comes as most major players in the IT industry are hunkering down on expectations of waning spending.

But AMD expects to be able to get itself back in the black thanks to spinning off its foundry business and by introducing a sweeping line of new products.

"In 2009, we plan to remain focused on executing our new product roadmaps, extend our leadership in graphics technology, refresh all our existing computing platform offerings and introduce innovative new platforms targeting key growth opportunities like ultraportable notebooks," Meyer said during his presentation.

That plan involves at least one change in direction, however. The company said it would push back the release of its new Bulldozer core, which is reportedly to be the first major redesign of the AMD core architecture since it introduced the x64 architecture in 2003.

Originally planned for 2009, Bulldozer will now make its first appearance in 2011 to give AMD room to more fully flesh out the mobile and desktop platforms it unveiled today, the company said.

New platforms

Randy Allen, senior vice president of AMD's computing solutions group, carried the water on giving the audience updates on a number of previously announced products while showing off a slew of wholly new designs.

For instance, he said the company remains on track to release a new chipset, called Fiorano, next year. Fiorano will introduce new I/O virtualization optimizations.

It's also still planning a 2009 debut for Istanbul, a six-core processor based on the Shanghai technology released today. In 2010 comes the new Maranello platform, featuring higher-performance DDR3 memory, and two new processors -- the six-core Sao Paolo and 12-core Magny-Cours.

Allen also talked up a number of new models AMD plans to introduce, many of which are for notebooks.

Until recently, notebooks have been something of a sore spot for AMD, which only got into the market for a notebook-friendly, combined CPU, graphics and chipset platform with Puma. The move filled a hole in its product offerings that had put it well behind Intel's extremely popular Centrino.

Now, with notebooks representing a potential $10 billion business, compared with $7.5 billion for performance desktops and $5 billion for servers, the latest efforts signal that AMD is going for the big market in earnest.

One new family member will be Yukon, which is set for the first half of 2009, and which will be for sub-notebooks -- although it promises the full notebook experience by avoiding crippling features, AMD said.

"What I hear from customers is 'I like the [subnotebook] form factor but I don't like the non-PC experience," Allen said.

Allen also introduced Tigris, for mainstream notebooks, which will be a dual-core, 45nm laptop processor with support for high-definition video and improved battery life. That's set for the second half of 2009.

Kodiak, meanwhile, is a business laptop design also planned for the second half of 2009. It will deliver business functions like Desktop and Mobile Architecture for System Hardware (DASH) -- a Web services-based standard for managing remote systems -- and Energy Star 5 compliance. It will also be a 45nm design.

Page 2: New Phenoms and Bulldozer