Qualcomm recently joined the party in China where Intel and IBM are longstanding guests. AMD needs to respond to its RSVP.
Advanced Micro Devices should follow the lead of rival Qualcomm and set up a China joint venture around its K-12 processor. Join the party where most other major processor makers are already toasting each other.
It seems to me itís a win/win. AMD wants to ďmonetize its IP,Ē CEO Lisa Su said in a recent conference call. China is hungry for microprocessor technology.
AMD canít license its x86 technology, but its ARM SoCs are fair game. Like Qualcomm and all the other vendors of ARM-based server SoCs, AMD needs help establishing an ecosystem and market for the architecture.
Right now the K-12 doesnít seem to be going anywhere. When asked, AMD said there is no timetable for when products using this new custom core will be released. That sounds to me like a chip in need of some love.
Qualcomm claims it has the pole position in China with its new joint venture in Guizhou, an area it claims will be a center for analytics and big data centers serving top telecom carriers. But itís a big country with plenty of possible partners—Alibaba, Baidu, Tencent and a handful of other hungry provincial governments.
Qualcomm even sketched out a working model on which it and the Guizhou government are placing a $280 million bet—three times what even ambitious processor startups attract. The U.S. company keeps ownership of the core product, but the JV can create derivatives for the local market.
Sounds like good risk sharing and aligned priorities to me. If AMD isnít already several months into deep negotiations, itís an opportunity for smaller more aggressive players like Applied Micro or Cavium.
If partners in China arenít sure whether they need a second ARM server joint venture, you can remind them Amazon hired most of the Calxeda design team and bought startup Annapurna. Itís the new space race, and that other billionaire in Seattle (not Bill Gates) may be winning it.
Of course, AMDís real crown jewel these days is its Radeon graphics processor. Iím sure China would like access to it, but I donít see any advantage for AMD in such a deal.
Radeon is mainly focused on PC and console game systems, not so much the general-purpose GPU market Nvidia has pioneered, winning lots of supercomputer sockets. Perhaps China could create its own Playstation Red or Xbox East, but thatís heavy lifting.
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