SUNNYVALE, Calif. – Advanced Micro Devices wants to be in tablets, but it will be 2012 before it starts to get traction in this rapidly emerging market. That's when AMD will field Wichita a follow on to its 9W Ontario chip now being built into small notebooks and netbooks.
Separately, the company plans to join other industry leaders adopting a new half node in process technology about every twelve months.
Some OEMs will build tablets using Windows 7 and the 1.2 GHz Ontario chip now shipping. However, Wichita, made in a 32 or 28nm process, will be a better option.
Both chips use DirectX 11 graphics cores and AMD's new low power x86 core called Bobcat announced in August. Bobcat is geared to run up to 1.6 GHz with as many as two cores in 40nm processors.
"One to 3W processors are the sweet spots for tablets," said Chuck Moore, chief technology officer in AMD's technology group.
"Part of mapping [Ontario] to 28nm process includes a nice reduction in power consumption," said Moore. "By paying attention to power management and all the other little factors, we can get way down the curve over time," he said.
"Tablets are right now a zero for the PC industry because they are essentially an [Apple] iPad phenomenon," said AMD chief executive Dirk Meyer.
"Tablets will increasingly be an important form factor," said Meyer. "We see tablets cannibalizing netbooks just as netbooks cannibalized notebooks, but tablets will be accretive over time," Meyer said.
AMD's Dirk Meyer eyes a tablet business in 2012
AMD expects the netbook market, one of the targets for its new Ontario chips, will be flat in 2011 at about 35 to 45 million units.
Separately, AMD is joining industry giants including GlobalFoundries and TSMC in adopting a cadence that moves to a new half-node process step every year. Chekib Akrout, general manager of AMD's technology group, discussed the move in a video interview.
AMD will typically build a product either at TSMC or GlobalFoundries rather than have versions of a product ported to each process. The two fabs use different gate first/gate last approaches and other unique elements in their processes. Customizing designs to the details of a process is important for obtaining optimal performance, he said.
AMD expects to be in production with 32nm parts by June, starting with its Llano processor for mainstream desktops and notebooks. It uses GPUs and an older so-called Stars generation of x86 cores.
By mid-2018 AMD plans to have production chips in a 28nm process. That will be followed by a 20nm process in production by the end of 2013 and a 14nm process in late 2015.
The chief challenges ahead are dealing with more complex lithography techniques such as double patterning and finding a way to adopt through-hole vias to merge DRAM with AMD's increasingly memory-hungry chips, he said. TSVs could become commercially viable as early as 2012-2013, he predicted.
Chekib Akrout eyes opportunities in through-silicon via stacks