AMD To Focus On Tablets Over Smartphones


Chipmaker AMD is reportedly focusing its mobile ambitions on tablets rather than smartphones

An executive at Advanced Micro Devices has reportedly confirmed the chipmaker has no plans to emulate Intel and compete against ARM Holdings in the booming smartphone arena.

AMD instead will take what executives see as the strengths of its x86-based chip portfolio – high performance, strong graphics and energy efficiency – in other directions, including tablets, according to reports.

Rick Bergman, senior vice president and general manager of AMD’s Product Group, said during an 8 August talk at the Pacific Crest Securities Technology Leadership Forum in Vail, Colorado, that tablets – with their focus on video capabilities and long battery life – are a better fit for his company than smartphones, which have limitations in such areas as battery and screen space.

Tablet Focus

“We haven’t announced any plans to go in that handheld space,” Bergman said at the event, according to a report in PC World. “We’ve got plenty of opportunities … in server, notebook and now tablets. That’s our immediate focus. But if the right circumstances come up and we can see a way to impact the [smartphone] market, we’ll obviously continue to look.”

AMD strategy in the mobile space has been an issue for a while, and came to a head in January when Dirk Meyer resigned as CEO in a disagreement with members of the board of directors over the company’s direction. The disagreement appeared to centre what board members perceived as AMD’s slow response to the booming smartphone and tablet markets.

That’s changed in recent months however. In June, AMD unveiled its Z-Series Fusion “Desna” chips, designed specifically for tablets. The low-power Z-Series APUs (accelerated processing units) were designed with such features as low power consumption for the consumer market, as well as with high productivity and security capabilities for business users. AMD is focusing on the Windows 7 market.

Mobile Competition

AMD’s Fusion APUs offer high-level graphics and the CPU integrated on the same chip. The Fusion strategy has helped AMD take back some market share from larger rival Intel. In July, market research firm IHS iSuppli said that in the second quarter, AMD saw its share of the worldwide chip market grow 19.4 percent, up from 17.8 percent in same period last year. Intel’s market share dropped from 81.3 percent in the second quarter of 2010 to 79.9 percent this year, the analysts said.

The tablet space is getting a lot of attention from OEMs and chip makers alike, thanks to the expected growth in the market. Research firm Gartner has projected that tablet sales will grow from about 70 million units this year to 294 million in 2015.

Currently the tablet and smartphone spaces are dominated by chips designed by ARM and made by the likes of Samsung Electronics, Qualcomm, Nvidia and Texas Instruments. However, AMD and, to a greater extent, Intel are looking to muscle their way in. Intel already has rolled out its Atom Z670 “Oak Trail” processor designed for tablets, and has said there will be three dozen designs based on the platform.

At the same time, the company is pushing ahead with its upcoming “Ivy Bridge” Core chips, which will feature Intel’s new Tri-Gate transistor architecture and feature greater performance and lower power consumption than current processors. Ivy Bridge chips should start showing up in products early next year.

Intel officials also say they expect Intel-based smartphones to begin hitting the shelves in 2012.

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