AMD says it won't compete against Intel in budget tablet market

Summary:A company exec says it isn't interested in subsidizing cheap tablets like its chip rival does.

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Intel's tablet woes may be well-documented, but it's been aggressive in attempting to increase its market share. AMD, on the other hand, has barely dipped a toe into tablets, and recent comments from company execs suggest that the company will pursue a different strategy as it attempts to break into the market.

Starting with its Bay Trail chips, Intel has made a major push to get inside Windows 8 and Android tablets, promoting low-cost models that would presumably maximize sales. Part of that promotion involves subsidizing manufacturers to use its processors.

AMD will have none of that, according to company CEO Rory Read, who said in a Q1 earnings call that the idea of such subsidies (which he referred to as "contra revenue") were something that AMD was not interested in pursuing. In fact, the firm plans to go in the other direction.

On the same call, AMD exec Lisa Su said the company is more interested in pursuing high-performance tablets instead of going the budget route -- and apparently doesn't mind missing out on those sales. "If we miss out on some units in the low end, so be it," she said.

That tablet strategy will be built around some new chips -- code-named Beema and Mullins -- that are expected to be released in the second quarter. Both will be based on AMD's Puma processing cores (either two or four) and Radeon graphics, though Mullins will consumer far less power (roughly 2 watts compared to Beema's 10 to 25 watts). These would presumably power Windows 8 tablets, especially the more potent Beema chips.

Of course, there's no guarantee that betting on the higher end of the tablet market is the best course of action, because the idea of a performance, or "pro," slate is still unproven (though Samsung is already giving it a try). Then again, AMD doesn't have the balance sheet to throw a lot of cash at device makers to spur mass acceptance like its chief rival does. That strategy is fraught, too, with low margins and threats from other chip makers attacking the low end of the market.

It remains to be seen if AMD can earn design wins for its new tablets to even put this strategy to the test. Only then can we know if betting on the high end of the market will be the right way to go as the company scrambles to make up ground with mobile devices. Do you think AMD is wise to concentrate on higher-performance tablets instead of competing with Intel for the budget market? Let us know in the Talkback section below.  

Topics: Tablets, Mobility

About

Sean Portnoy started his tech writing career at ZDNet nearly a decade ago. He then spent several years as an editor at Computer Shopper magazine, most recently serving as online executive editor. He received a B.A. from Brown University and an M.A. from the University of Southern California.

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