What does AMD have up its sleeve?
AMD has been on a hiring spree, picking two former Apple and Qualcomm engineers. This has led to suggestions that the Sunnyvale, California-based chipmaker is planning to carve out a professional tablet market.
Officially, AMD isn't talking about its plans, but what other companies do can give us a clue as to what AMD might be up to. At this year's SolidWorks World conference, Dassault Systèmes' chief executive Bernard Charles had the chance to see the SolidWorks software running on a prototype Fujitsu tablet featuring an AMD FirePro accelerated processing unit (APU).
FirePro is AMD's professional workstation graphics solution, aimed at computer-aided design (CAD) and digital content creation (DCC) professionals. Putting this graphics processing unit (GPU) inside a tablet transforms what is generally--but inaccurately--seen as a content-consumption device into a high-performance content-creation device.
AMD already has FirePro APUs listed on its website, the A300-series. This is aimed at entry-level and mainstream CAD and DSS workstations. These APUs are based on the "Trinity" architecture and have a TDP of 65W and 100W for the A300 and A320, respectively, which are far too high for tablet applications. This means that the APU running the tablet is a prototype, likely a modified "Hondo" part with professional graphics capabilities and certification.
This tablet gives AMD a massive advantage. While the likes of Nvidia and Qualcomm have ARM-based chips that can run Windows RT, AMD's APU would be able to run Windows 8 Pro along with regular desktop apps. This would give AMD an enormous advantage over the competition.
The question is, is there actually a market for professional tablets? If there is, AMD could be in a position to be the first to enter this new high profit margin sector.
Is this why AMD has been on a hiring spree?