AMD breaks out the heavy equipment to build its next-generation of chips

AMD will turn to Bulldozer and Bobcat to build its next generation of chips

Data is not unlike dirt. It’s pretty much ubiquitous, but difficult to move by hand and even harder to store in anything other than a big pile. But AMD’s got some new equipment coming out of its garage to meet that challenge. The chipmaker has on its drawing board Bulldozer and Bobcat, two earth moving processor core designs, which will serve as the basis for its Fusion product line due in the 2009 timeframe.

Bulldozer is the heavy duty machine. It’s meant to cover designs from UMPCs to servers. Bobcat? A Bobcat is small by earth moving standards, but designed to be efficient, economical and transportable. Sometimes you only need to rearrange smaller piles of dirt.

But the code names for AMD’s two next-generation processor cores are appropriate. Bulldozer is for creating CPUs to tackle a broad range of data sets in anything from servers to a small, portable PCs. Bulldozer will range from 10 to 100 watts. Bobcat is being designed for a narrower set of applications, including handhelds and digital televisions where sub-10-watt processors are required.

AMD served up the new code-names at an analyst day at its Sunnyvale, Calif., headquarters on Thursday. AMD executives, including CEO Hector Ruiz, took to the stage to underscore the company's product plans for the next several years. While they discussed numerous code names, with Bulldozer and Bobcat being among the most interesting given their status as Fusion cores, they did not say much about how the company intends to manufacture those products.

Analysts may have been hoping for additional information on its asset light manufacturing strategy. But they didn't get any.

Asset light is just that, a strategy designed to allow AMD to focus on designing CPUs based on Bulldozer or Bobcat versus putting all of its resources into creating processes and erecting plants to manufacture them. The plan is to focus on the design and work with partners to get the rest done. AMD already practices asset light in that it works with IBM on process design and has partnered with Chartered Semiconductor to produce Athlon processors. What everyone wants to know is what the next step is? I believe that Bobcat-based products, given their likely small size and lower transistor counts versus Bulldozer parts, could be outsourced to the likes of TSMC. But AMD remains mum for the moment.

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