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
LONDON – Warren East, CEO of processor licensor ARM, says there is no story here.
East says that he and his CFO Tim Score were asked about AMD during analyst discussions over ARM's record first quarter financial results and that he had simply said that ARM has been trying to sell to AMD for long time – as ARM's shareholders would expect. And as AMD is rethinking its strategic options there is clearly a "heightened opportunity" to make that sale.
That AMD might abandon – or at least augment with licensed-in ARM processors – the x86 processor architecture that has defined the company for 20 years, is to think the unthinkable. But it clearly makes sense. Such a move could not happen overnight. It may take years with x86 processors from AMD hanging on in some applications but the general arguments seem compelling.
And such a move supports ARM's increasing rivalry with Intel and its position in the IBM/Globalfoundries Common Platform Architecture camp.
Since AMD made providing x86 cores its primary business, it has always been in the shadow of Intel. This is partly because as Intel is the definer of the architecture, AMD is always playing catch-up; trying to provide a code-compatible processor at a better price. And Intel, as market leader with phenomenally deep pockets, has been able to use a mixture of pricing and manufacturing leadership to keep AMD under pressure.
Indeed, AMD was forced to divest itself of in-house manufacturing two years ago as it could no longer afford to keep developing manufacturing technology and putting down billions of dollars to build wafer fabs in which to run them at the same time as developing microprocessors. That divestiture was the seed for the creation of Globalfoundries Inc., now one of its foundry partners.