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.