AMD Lays Out Aggressive Roadmap to Put Pressure on Intel

Number two chipmaker Advanced Micro Devices has laid out an ambitious product roadmap, one that features it focusing on the growing market for notebook chips and increasing production overall as it bids to wrest still more market share away from Intel.

AMD’s roadmap relies heavily on continued product innovation, with more high-powered, dual-core chips aimed at high-end gaming PCs, cooler-running and smarter chips that will let notebooks do more work without overheating, and four-processor chips for the server and desktop market that will be on the market by mid-2007.

The company also announced plans to allow other chipmakers to build co-processors that plug into AMD’s.

The company revealed its various plans during an annual meeting for analysts, investors and members of the press. Analysts said, taken together, they represent the work of a company moving aggressively to solidify its growing market share.

AMD CEO Hector Ruiz said the company’s roadmap builds on the success it had by being the first chipmaker to make a heavy bet on 64-bit architecture in 2003.

“If you look back to those days, you will remember that it was questionable in many people’s minds whether that was the way to go,” Ruiz said. “At least it was questioned by our competition. We decided to move ahead, and today it is well accepted that x86 64 is truly the technology for the next few years.”

Opening Up

The decision to open up its chip architecture to allow others to license its proprietary version of HyperTransport was seen as especially significant, since it could speed development of compatible applications and since it’s a move Intel is less likely to make.

“We are taking a very bold step by opening up our architecture,” Marty Seyer, senior vice president of AMD’s commercial business unit, said during the event. “We know our competition will not do this.”

The move could enable development of application-specific processors, AMD said, with certain applications running on dedicated cores of a multi-processor chip, which could greatly increase computing efficiency.

Other moves could help win AMD additional market share over time, however. Its planned dual-core 65-nanometer notebook chip could be a big seller given the trend in PC sales away from desktops and toward notebooks.

The company says the new chips will use up to 60 percent less power by splitting processing and power-down chip cores when not in use, which could dramatically improve battery life and enable PC makers to produce lighter, more powerful notebooks.

AMD also said its innovations would enable server makers to load up to eight of its chips into their machines, giving it a better chance of battling Intel’s Itanium process in that market.

AMD Chief Operating Officer Dirk Meyer said the research that led to it jumping ahead in 64-bit architecture continues apace at AMD and will enable it to roll out significant new products enhancements for years to come.

“We have a lot of great engineers and they haven’t been sleeping,” he said.

In part because of its sheer size, Intel has traditionally outspent AMD on research and development and brought more new innovative products to market. That scenario is changing and though analysts say the market share balance isn’t likely to change dramatically any time soon, AMD does pose a more significant competitive threat to Intel than at any time in the past decade.

Response Expected

AMD plans to be ready to meet increased demand, however, saying it will have the capacity to produce a third of the world’s chips by 2008, which would represent a significant jump in its own market share.

The company said investments in chip plans in Germany and other overseas locations will enable it to ramp up production quickly once the new chipsets are ready for market.

Separately, AMD held to its current quarterly forecasts, which would in itself be significant since Intel has been actively reducing its prices in order to move older chips before new models debut.

For its part, Intel has been seen slipping lately, saying last month it would miss its quarterly targets because of pricing pressures in the marketplace, which many took to be a nod to AMD’s resurgence.

Recent financial and market share reports underscore AMD’s “incursion” into territory that had been dominated by Intel, said Gartner analyst Martin Reynolds.

The timing of the AMD next-generation rollout is key, Reynolds told TechNewsWorld, because many had targeted 2007 as the year in which Intel would roar back with its own new product lineups.

“Intel will respond aggressively on the product side,” he said. By moving forward in multiple directions, AMD is making it harder for Intel to counter its moves, however. “Intel will want to protect the high-end server turf, but doesn’t want to give on PCs either. AMD’s broad roadmap makes Intel’s job of responding even harder.”

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