Can AMD make a go of it in the tablet market?

When I speak with AMD executives they seem to always tell me that they wake up each and every day battling an 800-pound gorilla. That gorilla, in case you were wondering, is long time rival Intel. And Intel is exactly that big and powerful and all-encompassing. Despite this, AMD has managed to survive and thrive since its founding in 1969.

But I have my worries about their long-term viability these days. A few things happened on the way to establishing the chip maker in tablets. The first was the company cut 10 per cent of its global workforce. It was a pretty deep cut of about 12,000 staffers. During the summer, AMD broke a Guinness World Record for the highest frequency of a computer processor, running an 8-core FX-8150 processor at 8.429-GHz.

It was a tremendous accomplishment that should have been broadcast to the media and to the world. Sure, it was up against the Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi getting overthrown during the Arab Spring, but it looks as if AMD didn’t even try to promote this record. This Guinness record shows that AMD are true innovators.

A few days later, AMD hired away Rory Read from Lenovo to be its new CEO. AMD removed Dirk Meyer as CEO in January of 2011, as was largely rudderless during the extended search for his replacement. Now, Read is a great selection. I think he’s one of the smartest executives in high tech. But while AMD was figuring things out Intel was executing on all cylinders.

Basically, AMD is not competitive enough against Intel in most markets, but they’re not even on the radar screen in tablets.

The company does plan to announce an ultra-low powered unit coined Hondo for the tablet market. They’re also going to release Trinity for ultrabooks; another growing market segment.

How does it match up with Intel and ARM? Well, it doesn’t match up and AMD may not really want to. Where I see them going is towards its traditional go-to market strength, which is providing a good product at a much lower price point than Intel. When you look at DataWind and its relatively early success in producing a dirt cheap tablet, AMD can establish itself in the low end and try to build from there.

The fact is price is the biggest purchasing factor for Canadians and Americans. Customers in Western Europe and AsiaPac are not as price conscious as us here in North America. Price is what has allowed AMD to survive against Intel for more than four decades and I can’t see it changing much now.

But they have to get Hondo right. Actually, it has to be perfect because any set backs and you can see manufacturers such as DataWind not giving them a chance.

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