AMD to target tablets with its chips

After months of denying any interest, CEO Dirk Meyer now says AMD will release chips for tablets in a few years

Advanced Micro Devices on Thursday said it wants to put its chips in tablets, relenting after months of denying any interest in that market.

Users will see AMD chips in tablets in a few years, said Dirk Meyer, AMD's CEO, during a conference call on the company's third-quarter financial results.

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Tablets represent a disruptive force in the laptop industry, and AMD has the technology ingredients needed for them, Meyer said. Fast chips with strong graphics capabilities are a strength of the company, he said.

The tablet strategy is important for AMD in the long term, but for now, the company will wait and observe the market, Meyer said. AMD will intensify its involvement and invest significant research and development money when the market is suitable. Tablets are still evolving, and new form factors will come over time, Meyer said.

The company will reveal more details about its tablet strategy at its financial analyst day, which will be held at the company's headquarters in Sunnyvale, California, on Nov. 9.

AMD's interest in tablets comes as shipments of the devices explode. Intel CEO Paul Otellini said Tuesday that tablets were biting into PC shipments by a few million units per quarter. IDC and Gartner on Wednesday said that tablets were severely impacting netbooks, whose proportion of overall mobile computer shipments had diminished during the third quarter.

Tablets would optimally use chips that draw 2 to 3 watts of power, which is about half the power consumption of a fanless netbook, Meyer said. Device makers may take AMD's netbook components and build them into tablets, he said.

The company plans to formally enter the netbook market with its low-power Ontario chip, which will start shipping in the fourth quarter. Netbooks and low-power laptops with the chip will start appearing early next year. Ontario combines a CPU and a graphics processor (GPU) on a single chip.

The company has said that Ontario's CPU core, code-named Bobcat, will be able to draw less than 1 watt of power. The power budget of the integrated GPU core has yet to be revealed, though GPUs tend to draw more power than CPUs.

For now, the company will focus on establishing itself in the netbook market, which will continue to grow in terms of shipments despite the onslaught of tablets, Meyer said. Intel's Atom chips are the most frequently used in netbooks today.

AMD also has room to grow in the PC space, and most research and development money will be sent in that direction, Meyer said. Intel held an 80.7 percent market share in PC microprocessor shipments during the second quarter, while AMD held a 19 percent market share, according to an IDC study released in August.

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