AMD enters netbook fray

Advanced Micro Devices will lay out its product strategy for small, low-cost laptops, called netbooks , at an analyst meeting next month.

Netbook sales have soared in recent months, largely due to the release of Intel’s low-cost Atom processor.

Although Taiwanese chip vendor Via Technologies, which provides the C7 processor used in Hewlett-Packard’s Mini-Note 2133 netbook, has a foothold in this market, Intel hasn’t faced any competition from AMD in this space. But that appears set to change.

“We do have strategies together with our OEMs for pushing our solutions both down into smaller form factors and lower notebook price points,” said Dirk Meyer, AMD’s president and CEO, during a Thursday conference call with financial analysts.

Meyer said describing AMD’s plans for the netbook segment required a “complicated answer” not suited to a phone conversation. Instead, the company will outline its thoughts at an analyst meeting in November, where the company will discuss its long-term product roadmaps for different market segments. That meeting is scheduled for Nov. 13.

Hints of what AMD may be thinking can be drawn from the blog of Pat Moorhead [CQ], AMD’s vice president of advanced marketing, who has spent a considerable amount of time writing about netbooks and their limitations in recent months.

Last month, Moorhead documented his experience using MSI’s Atom-powered Wind laptop during an August trip to Florida. His biggest complaints? Lackluster battery life and poor video performance.

Like Intel executives, who pitch netbooks as second computers rather than primary machines, Moorhead’s verdict was that users should opt for a more powerful system if they want to use their computer for multimedia. “If you want to do anything other than surfing basic, light websites at home without the bells and whistles, go for the full-size notebook, not one of these cheap mini-notebooks,” he wrote.

Intel limits the specifications, such as screen size, of computers based on its Atom chips to segment the laptop market and avoid eating into sales of PCs based on more profitable chips. But those limitations offer room for competitors like AMD to enter the market with competing products that have more powerful capabilities.

One possibility is to add a faster graphic processors and increase the multimedia performance of these small laptops — something that would be relatively easy for AMD to do with its existing range of ATI graphics chips and integrated chipsets.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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