A Mobile Malaise

Let's look at the statement AMD put out when it bought ATI:

"{In buying ATI} AMD aims to move beyond current technological configurations to transform processing technologies, with silicon-specific platforms that integrate microprocessors and graphics processors to address the growing need for general-purpose, media-centric, data-centric and graphic-centric performance."

Even ATI president and CEO Dave Orton chipped in: "Joining with AMD will enable us to innovate aggressively on the PC platform, and continue to invest significantly in our consumer business to stay in front of our markets."

Yep, nowhere is there any explicit talk about mobile. Not laptops, but phones. In fact it wasn't until late 2009 that AMD even made its first steps into the netbook space with the Acer Ferrari One, Intel had been there since 2007 inside the Eee PC 701. Meanwhile Intel may have paid out $1.25bn in fines to AMD in 2009, but by July 2010 it had reported its quarter ever" and last weekend paid out $1.4bn for the wireless business unit of Infineon - a vital deal which will allow it to create a mobile chipset to compete with ARM.

It is no secret ARM is where Intel has set its sights. It is why the company has spent much of the year trying to port Android to x86 architecture, partnering with Nokia to create the MeeGo mobile operating system and pushing the Atom Z6xx (below with the first Intel prototype smartphone). As Intel's Pankaj Kedi, director of Global Ecosystem Programmes, told us at the time of the Z6xx launch: "Smartphones are computers that happen to make a phone call so smartphones are where Intel now needs to be."

Nvidia also knows this having unveiled Tegra in mid-2008 and given the tablet sector is only now taking off by using smartphone architecture rather than shrunk down PC chipsets the stakes (and rewards) for those who made moves early have never been higher.

By contrast AMD recently proclaimed: "Our current generation of notebook platforms has not been designed for tablets. Our focus continues to be on ultrathin and mainstream notebooks which address the vast majority of the PC market opportunity."

Apparently not. Meanwhile AMD's senior VP and general manager of products (ie kingpin of the company's innovation) admitted only in June that it was adopting a 'wait and see' approach to mobile devices. He admitted AMD doesn't have "any immediate clients to serve the mobile form factor", but will "move into that going forward."

You don't need me to tell you it's a little late.

So while we applaud AMD for taking the decision this week to unify its branding and simplify its product ranges it is impossible to get away from the fact that this isn't the only obvious area where a change of mindset is required. Our biggest hope: it doesn't take four years to rectify this one...

comments powered by Disqus