The past five years have not been easy for AMD CEO Hector Ruiz. But after racking up more than $1 billion in losses, his company finally turned things around in 2004. With the launch of its first dual-core Opteron processors late last month, AMD has the jump on rival Intel’s server chips, an area where AMD has been gaining momentum. Ruiz spoke with Tom Krazit and Robert McMillan of the IDG News Service.
IW: What lies beyond dual-core for AMD?
HR: It’s hard to tell right now beyond four cores. The probability of having a four-core product is very high. There’s a lot of work going on with our engineering teams and with our customers to figure out where we go beyond that. There are two or three options that look pretty attractive. We’ll be narrowing down our choices.
IW: It is interesting that you did not say that four-core is a certainty. Are you looking at different ways of improving performance other than doubling the number of cores?
HR: At the end of the day, for us, it’s going to be what our customers want. Making transistors is pretty trivial. We can make hundreds of millions of transistors. Figuring out what the hell to do with those transistors is the challenge. One could choose, for example, to have heterogeneous cores. You could have two cores that are different instead of the same. That opens up a completely different array of possibilities.
IW: Do you think we will be seeing more of these "system-on-a-chip" designs in which many of the computer’s capabilities are embedded in the microprocessor?
HR: System-on-a-chip connotes a certain mind-set that might not be accurate for the high end of microprocessors, but it’s that idea. What do you need to do for a particular segment of the market? It might be different [for some segments] than for others. Today we have been able to get away -- both our competitors and us -- with the products being similar for all segments