With many-core processing leveling the playing field for microprocessor makers this would be a good time for AMD to focus on system-level issues impacting its processor ICs and let ARM do the heavy lifting in terms of architecture, argues Peter Clarke
But clearly the transition from simple multicore to many-core processing also represents a fundamental shift in battleground for a company like AMD. Software becomes much more important and to a degree it resets the competition. Intel has as little idea as anyone else, possibly less idea, about how to make efficient use of many-core processor chips. This would therefore be the right time for AMD to jump ship.
While AMD is focused solely on the x86 architecture its primary requirement is to make ICs perform like Intel's. And with multicore developments Intel is becoming harder to track it is quite probably too expensive for a fabless company that is only in the PC market, such as AMD, to do the work continually playing catch-up with Intel.
The only prize that AMD gets for that strategy is lot of expense and always being second to Intel, which may not itself be making all the right moves.
But if AMD joins the extended ARM ecosystem, in return for a few million dollars and a few percent royalty per chip it gets ready-made architectures that it can bolt together leaving it time to focus on performance at the system-level. And with full versions of Windows becoming available on ARM processors, this gives AMD the possibility to address not only the PC market but the broader consumer platform-style requirements of many OEMs.
This can get AMD out from under the thin-margin PC business into a broader landscape that roams from mobile phones to tablets to PCs. It does introduce AMD to competition from the likes of Samsung and others, but AMD has to be willing to back itself as creating value at doing something.
Now the choice between Windows running on x86 and Windows running on ARM becomes one of which is more power-efficient and which is a customers' preference.
Most users can really save with AMD chips instead of Intel's because they dont really need Intel chips to do the jobs most of the times. IT teams often picked Intel chips just to play it safe but AMD chips can really do the jobs for less. Resellers seek to maximize revenues with higher priced Intel chips inside the throats of users.
Maybe there is a need for benchmark software to help IT guys analyze their own wares to determine if AMD chips can do the jobs every bit as good as Intel's. AMD enjoys a very low market share in the server business to make me suspect a whole lot!! at 7% of the server market just do not jive !
Another possibility is for AMD to support both architectures. They can support the x86 for markets such as PCs; and ARM for mobile computing and smartphones. Or augment their x86 product with an ARM processor; but that could turn out to be an expensive solution.
For ARM this is a good move, because AMD would add another licensee to their ecosystem; moreover it can help them get into computing markets where they traditionally havenít had much traction. For AMD it makes sense because its destiny will be defined by more than what its chief competitor (Intel) does. The only caveat for AMD would be that, they would now enter a chip space with a sea of competition including Broadcom, Freescale, Infineon, Qualcomm, Samsung, ST Micro, and TI.
I think this is a great strategy idea for AMD. They will not win a head-on competition with Intel, yet they have tremendous resources and skills at their disposal. Qualcomm has done a nice job with their Arm-Licensed Snapdragon processor...optimized for mobile use. AMD could choose another tangent such as chipsets for low-cost, low-power multiprocessor servers (like SeaMicro except using ARM's instead of ATOM's).
ARM based processors lend themselves to the low current requirements for smartphones, tablets, and small laptops. In this sense, AMD might benefit by being able to sell into this rapidly expanding market. However, there are lots of competitors with their own ARM based processors, including Apple, Qualcomm, Nvidia, and Samsung. Qualcomm has years and years of experience combining its Snapdragon (ARM based processor) with its modem chips on a single chip, with smaller size, lower current draw, and other features that offer challenges to less experienced competitors. What can AMD offer to survive in this market?
This is a bad deal for AMD but good for ARM and Intel. AMD will be joining a long line of ARM licensee's all trying to out do one another with basically the same arch (ARM). AMD is currently in a market where it hold #2 (very distant but still #2) and has lots of experience at x86. They will be entering a crowed market which they have no expertice. Intel will pretty much own 100% of the x86 market at that point. ARM just gets sell yet another license.
AMD do not have to drop x86, why should they? That said, I think such deal will be more of an advantage to ARM than AMD. As for Intel, I would be very worried if I were in their shoes. I do not see increased x86 dominance as a blessing, certainly not in the mobile computing era.
I'm wondering why Nvidia is off the radar from this analysis. Its Project Denver is arguably much further down the planning and development path than anything AMD could start doing even yesterday. Also, Nvidia is claiming the entire high/low TDP range for Project Denver. Not only would it make it a much more ambitious project than what AMD could conceivably reconsider with ARM right now but it would be more complete as Nvidia already have an ARM-based portfolio.
The possibility of only one probable outcome is highly likely; AMD will most likely license ARM cpus. 2 factors help the domination of X86 programs- the amount of installed X86 software, and shrinking die size of future Fusion APU's, Intel has gotten a 30% increase of performance and battery life with every die shrink - Llano should gain, as well as the C class APU's - Monte Carlo simulations and simultaneous HD at the same time, on a tablet or netbook?
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