AMD turns a profit... but can it last?

Games consoles and healthy GPU sales mean that AMD finally turns a quarterly profit, but does the company have what it takes to maintain this momentum into the future?

After Intel missed its earnings expectation, all eyes were on AMD. As a rule a bad quarter for Intel generally means an even worse quarter for everyone else involved.

But not this time.

This time the company managed to post a net profit for the last quarter of $89 million, which is good, but not enough to make up for the previous bad quarters that overall resulted in a loss of $83 million for 2013.

But it wasn't the PC industry that buoyed AMD's last quarter, but the wins it secured with Microsoft and Sony to get its silicon inside the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 games consoles. According to analysts at FBR Market Capital, this deal can add more than a $1 billion in revenue annually to AMD's bottom line, and more than $5 billion over the full life of the consoles.

Not a number to be sniffed at.

Things are also good in terms of graphics, with AMD's Radeon graphics business showing strong growth. In 2012 this pulled in revenues of $1.4 billion, growing to $2.2 billion in 2013.

But things are not altogether rosy. If we look at AMDs computing business we can see just how bad the bottom has fallen out of the PC business.

In 2012 this was worth $4 billion to AMD, but by 2013 revenues has shrunk to $3.1 billion.

Put that another way. The billion that consoles are estimated to be worth to AMD per year is all but obliterated by the collapsing PC business.

That leaves graphics to pick up the slack. It must bring comfort to AMD that it picked up ATI Technologies – the company responsible for Radeon – back in 2006 in a deal valued at $5.6 billion.

So, can AMD keep on turning a profit? Well, it is capable of, but long-term success is dependent on a number of variables:

  • Will the demand for consoles be high enough to offset the decline in computing revenue?
  • Will the current-generation consoles hang around as long as the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 did?
  • Will that much-predicted PC upgrade cycle happen in 2014? If it does, will AMD be ready to take advantage of it?
  • How much growth is left in the graphics market?
  • Does AMD have a game plan for mobile, or is it leaving that market to the likes of Qualcomm, Intel and the likes?