AMD, once on top of the world with its Athlon 64 lineup, has been hit hard by Intel ever since the rival chip maker abandoned its infatuation with Netburst and began pushing its Core architecture to much fanfare. Phenom hasn't been the phenomenal success AMD had hoped it would be, and it appears the company has finally reached a crossroads for future operations.
Rather than continue on with business as usual, AMD has chosen another path, one in which the chip maker will be split into two companies, with one staying focused on designing processors and the other setting its sights on manufacturing them. Giving the separated companies a boost, AMD says it will receive at least $6 billion from two Abu Dhabi investment firms, which will mostly go towards financing a new chip factory near Albany and to upgrade the company's Fab in Dresden, Germany.
AMD will own 44 percent of the new entity, which will temporarily be known as the Foundry Company, with the Abu Dhabi government formed Advanced Technology Investment Company owning the rest. ATIC will invest $2.1 billion in the venture right way, with $3.6 billion to $6 billion to be injected later on.
"We generally believe this deal is a game changer for the industry," said Khaldoon Al Mubarak, chief executive of Mubadala. "It's bold, and I think it's smart."
AMD's Dirk Meyer agrees, saying the split will make AMD a financially stronger company. And there's no doubt AMD could use financial relief, who at last count reported it carried a $5.3 billion debt while maintaining only $1.6 billion in cash.
Could this be the boost AMD needs to finally go toe-to-toe with Intel, or is this the beginning of the end? Hit the jump and post your thoughts.
Perhaps AMD's assembly line has kicked it up a notch, but whatever the reason, the chip maker is informing its server partners that it plans to bump up the launch of its 45nm server CPUs (Shanghai) from January 2009 to the middle of this month. According to sources at these server makers, nine processors will initially be released, ranging in core frequency from 2.3GHz up to 2.7GHz.
Five of the Shanghai chips will ship as a 2-way model, with the remaining four being 8-way models. All of them will take residence in AMD's socket F (1207) and boast an on-die DDR2 memory controller. Each will also come outfitted with 6MB of L2 cache.
AMD will follow up these initial CPUs in February 2009 with five 55W models (three 2-way and the two 8-way), and two 105W models (one 2-way and one 8-way).
Barcelona might have been a sullen nightmare for AMD but it seems to have moved on. It has now pinned its hopes on Shanghai, a quad-core processor for the server market, which happens to be its first processor to be synthesized on a 45-nanometer process.
The company has begun shipping Shanghai to its OEM partners. Shanghai will be launched ahead of time, before the end of this year, unlike Barcelona that was plagued by delays.
With Intel bracing itself for the discrete GPU market with its upcoming Larrabee chip, Nvidia and AMD are expected to make an earnest attempt at luring millions of users of integrated graphics with their low-end discrete graphics solutions – quid pro quo. ATI/AMD has launched its low-end offerings HD 4350 and HD 4550 with integrated graphics’ users in sight. The new GPUs are priced between $40 and $55.
The cards are based on AMD’s 55 nm 4800 series architecture and are claimed to hold an edge over Nvidia’s low-end 9400 series. Both the GPUs have 80 stream processors and are clocked at 600 MHz. The HD 4550 will come with either 256 MB or 512 MB GDDR3 memory. On the other hand, HD 4350 will only be available with 256 MB of DDR2. The GPUs are only going to consume 20 watts of power, which is 2/5 of the appetite for power of Nvidia’s 9400 series.
The crisp chill of fall brings change to the seasons and a never ending string of corporate rebranding. AMD is next on the block and rumored to be revising its product roadmap to increase the indentifying model numbers on its upcoming processors from four to five digits. The Phenom X3 and X4 branding will remain, but according to industry sources quoted by Tom’s Hardware, this will also change the AMD product roadmap in some interesting ways. It appears as though AMD is planning to release the Phenom 20550 and 20350 at 3.0 and 2.8 GHZ respectively with a DDR2 memory controller and will be backwards compatible with socket AM2+. This will give users of the previous platform another upgrade path before being forced to replace both motherboard and RAM. Both processors are expected to make a Q4 2008 release but have yet to be confirmed by AMD. All other upcoming processors will likely require DDR3 memory and the new socket AM3.
AMD continues to suffer through corporate misery, most recently by losing almost $1.2 billion in a single quarter, forcing the replacement of CEO Hector Ruiz with his subordinate, Dirk Meyer. If AMD collapses and Intel becomes the only major vendor of PC processors, will prices soar?
Unfortunately, monopolies usually do inflate prices. They also retard progress. AMD stimulates Intel to price its processors more aggressively and develop better processors. Without AMD, we might not have 64-bit x86 processors today or PC processors with integrated memory controllers. Right now, we’d probably be looking forward to the first quad-core x86 processors instead of the first eight-core chips.
The chipmaker claims that Fusion for Gaming can enhance a computer’s performance by up to 10%. Although it might actually prove to be handy, the chances of it being worth as much as AMD’s rhetoric suggests are slim to none. The beta is only meant for Windows Vista 32 and can be downloaded here.
In case you missed it, Intel earlier this week officially released its Dunnington-based 7400 server CPUs. Dunnington has garnered attention in the press for being a six-core processor, and also for being the first Intel chip to sport a monolithic design, meaning all six cores come on a single die. Dunnington's predecessor, the 7300 series Tigerton, was a quad-core processor two dual-core chips wedged onto a single slice of silicon.
But Dunnington is no big deal, according to AMD. Jon Fruehe, worldwide market development manager for the rival chip maker, dubbed Dunnington as nothing more than a "benchmark chip" and a "placeholder" until Intel can move away from an external memory controller.
Fruehe also huffed at Intel having the first six-core CPU, saying it's just a glued together triple-dual core processor with 50 percent more cores than the quad-core and costing 50 percent more, but only offering 30 percent more performance. He also pooh-poohed the 130W TDP rating (early reports indicate first run Core i7 processors will also be rated at 130W), and downplayed Tigerton's success, saying market share gains can be attributed to AMD being late with Barcelona.
Is Fruehe's criticism of Intel's Dunnington architecture valid, or did someone just take a whiz in his Wheaties?
Wondering what exactly AMD has in store for 2009? So is everyone else, which would explain the sometimes conflicting speculation making the rounds on the web. But for the real scoop, TomsHardware claims it has "some confirmed information thanks to [credible] inside sources."
If the sources prove accurate (and THW feels confident they will), AMD's upcoming socket AM3 platform is being designed to exclude AM2 and AM2+ parts. AM3 will support DDR3-1333 memory, and expect a move away from Diode based thermal monitoring to Thermal Sense Interface (TSI) monitoring.
Also on tap for 2009 are two new AM2+ Deneb chips shown as launching in January. THG also reports that an AM3-based Deneb chip will launch sometime in February, with tri-core AM3 chips making a debut by April or May of next year.
Forget about overpriced tickets to the big screen, you can get your fill of drama just by following the tech news. In what could pass as a Hollywood script, ex-Intel engineer Biswamohan Pani has been accused by the FBI of stealing trade secrets from Intel while working for AMD incognito.
According to an affidavit by FBI special agent Timothy Russell, the alleged storyline goes like this: Pani, playing the part of double-agent, informs Intel officials in May of his intention to resign so he can go work for a hedge fund and would utilize accrued vacation time until June 11, which would be his final official day. Here's where the plot twist comes in. There is no hedge fund, and Pani instead begins working for AMD on June 2. With time still left on the table at Intel, the suspected double-agent accesses and downloads 13 secret documents from an encrypted system.
Of course, movie scripts can never be so cut and dry, and so in this feature, Pani no longer works for AMD and denies any wrongdoing, even after a July 1 search of his home turns up eight Intel documents classified as confidential, secret, or the mother of them all, top secret.
Wondering how it ends? So are we. Stay tuned as this one plays out in real life.