On AMD and multicore processors
EET: You used to be president of Advanced Micro Devices. What's your view of the Intel-vs.AMD battle these days?
Raza: The competition between Intel and AMD is being won by Intel right now. Intel is providing the leadership and setting the pace, but the industry and the economy would be better served if Intel and AMD were in a true footrace because they both strain harder to win. When Intel is so far ahead of AMD there is a tendency for neither of them to run that fast.
EET: What should AMD do?
Raza: AMD has to become a different company. It has to become a much more nimble, fast-moving company to close the gap with Intel. [AMD chief executive] Dirk Meyer has to give AMD the culture of a large startup rather than a small Intel. Dirk is a very creative person and can make AMD become that company.
Right now it is run as a smaller Intel. If it is a small Intel running against a big Intel, the big Intel will win.
EET: AMD has increasingly been paring back to just PC processors.
Raza: That’s the right thing for them. They have focused to where they have a benefit. But if they focus on only the lowest cost products, there will no longer be a race between Intel and AMD, just a partitioning of the market and of necessity in such a partitioning AMD will make less money than Intel.
The re-engineering of AMD has to occur, but it depends on how hard AMD wants to work. It's a much more comfortable path for AMD to just be a low-cost supplier and partition that part of the business and make less money but still make some. That will give them another 5-10 years of reasonable life, but I don’t know what happens after that for that kind of company.
EET: What do you think of AMD's split into processor and foundry companies?
Raza: That was an economic necessity. To fund the next generation of process technology and build a fab around it, you have to generate a certain amount of cash and volumes and revenues and AMD slowly was not able to meet the bar. It had to divest from its fab.
The future of foundries is their customers will be AMDs and TIs and Freescales. None of these companies in the long run have the ability to generate enough cash to live up to Jerry Sanders old motto that only real men have fabs. There are no real men left except maybe Intel and Samsung. Now there are hybrid men.
EET: Now that you have sold off RMI, do you foresee other opportunities for multicore processor startups?
Raza: Yes, it's possible to design better multicore processors. [The cellphone is] exploding in workloads and unit demand. If markets are growing, there is always an opportunity to do something better.
Whether I am able to come up with something better I don’t know, but it's intriguing me a lot. Starting another [multicore] company is a step further than I have thought, but I can imagine things that can be done that would make a big difference. Talk to me in say three years.