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Hurray! AMD vows to compete in the high-end PC market again, from CPUs to GPUs

Mark Hachman | May 8, 2015
AMD has been forced to pick its battles, wary of going toe-to-toe with Intel and its mighty manufacturing machine. But AMD chief executive Lisa Su said Wednesday that it's time for AMD to re-enter the ring and again commit to high-end, premium products.

Meet the "Zen" core

As AMD tries to claw its way into parity with Intel, the company is busy prepping its next flagship CPU core: Zen. AMD promises that the Zen core will offer an amazing 40 percent performance improvement over today's processors, and will be the basis for its reborn FX processors next year.

"We are reinvesting in the high end desktop with the Zen core, Su said. "High performance and compute in desktop makes a big difference."

Further reading: AMD pivots back to high-performance computing with next-gen Zen CPU cores

AMD also said that it had nixed its "Project Skybridge" initiative with ARM chips, and had pulled out of the low-end ARM server market, as well.

AMD to goose graphics with high-bandwidth memory

AMD teased some of its upcoming graphics technology at the Wednesday event, and the rumors are true: at least some of the upcoming graphics cards will be the first to feature high-bandwidth memory (HBM), the supercharged successor to the GDDR5 memory used in today's graphics cards.

AMD's chief technical officer Mark Papermaster said that HBM offers a three-fold improvement in performance per watt compared to GDDR5, and a 50-percent increase in power savings.

Further reading: Confirmed! AMD's next-gen Radeon graphics will use cutting-edge high-bandwidth memory

Su also announced a new lineup of M300-series mobile graphics for OEM notebooks. Vendors will begin announcing laptops with the new GPUs very soon.

Semi-custom stability

In 2016, AMD hopes to gain profitable market share in PC CPUs, graphics, and the embedded space. But one of the more stable sources of revenue is a business AMD didn't talk too much about — the semi-custom space, like AMD's systems-on-a-chip that power the three main game consoles.  AMD hopes to sign an additional customer this quarter in its semi-custom business, which will begin generating returns in 2017 and 2018. Could that be a refreshed version of one of today's game consoles?

One of the more interesting points Su raised was not what AMD would invest in, but where it wouldn't.  In the Internet of Things, for example, Su said that AMD planned to invest only in areas where its technology could be monetized. "We're not going to be in the endpoint space, we're not going to be in the smartphone space."

Su tried to make clear that the industry values competition — "the datacenter wants AMD," she noted — and was realistic that participation in markets where AMD has struggled means that AMD can make new, aggressive choices. Still, AMD has a challenge in mindshare as much as anything else — can they be perceived as a high-end supplier when they've struggled for so long?


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