As Intel chases mobile to regain lost glory, AMD charts a more daring path

The No. 2 chip maker bets big on servers and game consoles, but it will stay out of the smartphone market

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At the same time, Intel continued its long-standing tradition of kicking AMD's butt in the PC market. At the moment, Mercury's statistics show AMD's share of the x86 PC market is 12.7 percent, while Intel soaks up almost all the rest of the business with an 87.1 percent share.

Intel has another long-standing tradition: pushing up prices when the market will tolerate it. And because AMD's credibility was so low, Intel was able to more than double the price of server chips from the low $300s to well over $600 a unit, industry sources tell me.

That's not to say Intel was doing anything wrong. But price hikes of that magnitude also create an opportunity. After all, companies like Google, Facebook, and Amazon buy hundreds of thousands of server chips a year, so why wouldn't they look for a cheaper alternative?

AMD's SkyBridge bridges the x86-ARM gap
Meanwhile, the rise of SOC (system-on-a-chip) technology, which puts most of a processor's technology on one die instead of being scattered across multiple chips, has enabled AMD's "ambidextrous" computing strategy, says Brookwood. Simply put, AMD is making its server chips pin-compatible with motherboards running either x86 or ARM chips.

The advantage to what AMD calls Project SkyBridge is this: Rather than designing two sets of boards and related components, server makers can save time and development costs by designing only one. AMD has been able to unify its x86 and ARM development teams under noted former Apple architect Jim Keller, cutting its R&D costs significantly,Brookwoodnotes.

AMD General Manager Lisa Su said this week that SkyBridge also could be used in networking hardware, which uses different architectures for different tasks. For example, SkyBridge could provide one product that could use x86 for the high-end control plane and ARM for low-end processing.

The new ARM and x86 chips made as part of Project SkyBridge could appear in ultrathin client devices -- which may include tablets -- and in embedded devices, said Su. AMD will support Android on its 64-bit ARM-based chips, but unlike Intel, AMD will not pursue the smartphone market.

"It isn't in our DNA," said Su.

I don't believe we're in the post-PC era yet, but, as that market fades and technology shifts, the competitive dynamic at the heart of the industry is changing in ways that could make AMD a serious competitor once again.

I welcome your comments, tips, and suggestions. Post them here (Add a comment) so that all our readers can share them, or reach me at bill@billsnyder.biz. Follow me on Twitter at BSnyderSF.

This article, "As Intel chases mobile to regain lost glory, AMD charts a more daring path," was originally published by InfoWorld.com. Read more of Bill Snyder's Tech's Bottom Line blog and follow the latest business technologydevelopments at InfoWorld.com. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

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