AMD looks to ARM itself for low-power tablets

The company is opening up its processors to technologies from other chip makers, potentially including low-power specialist ARM, so it can develop products better suited to mobile devices, such as tablets

AMD plans to tap into technology from other chip companies to help it make processors for low-power tablets.

The chip maker, which is trying to break into tablets, didn't specify any particular company for future collaboration at its financial analyst day on Thursday. However, it has a longstanding relationship with Cambridge-based ARM, whose designs are present in most mobile devices.

"We have a relationship with ARM, and we will continue to build on it," Rory Read, AMD's chief executive, told The Wall Street Journal, when asked whether AMD would incorporate ARM technology into its chips. "We will continue to evolve that relationship as the market continues to evolve."

The plans for collaboration are part of the company's strategy of pushing into systems-on-a-chip (SoC) designs to make its products easier to tweak for the demands of mobile devices.

AMD intends to cut the power consumption of its chips and "develop a system-on-a-chip technology that is flexible" so it can easily use technologies from other companies.

These technologies could include embedded hardware for applications such as video processing and security, or even "another type of processor architecture", according to John Taylor, AMD's director of marketing for Fusion accelerated processing units. He added that these technologies will begin appearing in 2014.

The company gave further information about its heterogeneous system architecture (HSA), which is a technology that brings CPUs and GPUs even closer together than in its present accelerated processing unit (APU) design and is crucial to the overall SoC push. AMD's SoC plans are designed to shorten development times, lower power consumption and make it easier for it to reuse technology across multiple products.

AMD expects this approach will lead to sub-2W processors in 2014, Taylor said.

In 2012 the company will introduce a tablet-targeted APU named Hondo, which will use one or two low-power Bobcat cores and consume a thrifty 4.5W. This APU will be followed in 2013 by a Temash SoC built from two Jaguar cores and a new Graphics Core Next GPU.

For ultra-thin notebooks, it will release a low-power variant of the Trinity APU in 2012, which will halve the power consumption of present AMD Trinity processors. This launch will be followed by a Kabini SoC that will use Jaguar cores and have some HSA technology to make on-chip communication faster.

For APUs tasked with complex processing, a Kaveri processor will follow Trinity. Kaveri will use Steamroller-based cores and will use a Graphics Core Next GPU.

By 2013, AMD will move its entire mobile chip range — Temash, Kabini, Kaveri — over to a 28nm process, which should lead to a drop in power consumption. The chips will use either Steamroller or Jaguar cores. Steamroller is a continuation of the Piledriver architecture, while Jaguar is follows on from Bobcat.


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