AMD's Extreme Makeover: What the new roadmaps reveal

Lost in all of the (inaccurate) commotion yesterday about AMD entering the netbook market were much broader changes in the company's product plans as it struggles to regain profitability and keep up with a deep-pocketed Intel. In the past year, AMD has announced plans to spin-off manufacturing, abandoned efforts to compete for "all screens" including TVs and smartphones, and at yesterday's analysts' meeting, revealed major changes to its server, desktop and notebook roadmaps.

Lost in all of the (inaccurate) commotion yesterday about AMD entering the netbook market were much broader changes in the company's product plans as it struggles to regain profitability and keep up with a deep-pocketed Intel. In the past year, AMD has announced plans to spin-off manufacturing, abandoned efforts to compete for "all screens" including TVs and smartphones, and at yesterday's analysts' meeting, revealed major changes to its server, desktop and notebook roadmaps. The extent of these changes is clear when you compare the new plans to the presentations at AMD's previous analysts' meeting less than a year ago.

AMD's "Market Opportunity"

Last year AMD executives were talking up plans to compete in everything from servers to cell phones. Processors and GPUs for servers, desktops and notebooks would still be the bulk of the business, but the acquisition of ATI gave the company the portfolio to sell more chips for digital TVs and handhelds. These new markets would increase AMD's TAM, or total addressable market, by a combined $6.4 billion in 2007. The company has since been forced to retrench.

Last month, AMD completed the sale of its digital TV business to Broadcom, and it is seeking a buyer for its handheld division. AMD is now focused strictly on chips for servers, desktops and notebooks--including GPUs--though the total market has grown to $46.5 billion by 2009 according to yesterday's presentation. (This implies a compound annual growth rate of about 10%--the market for commercial and consumer IT was $38.3 billion in 2007--which seems plausible.) Though it makes for a less interesting product portfolio, this is a smart strategy--AMD simply doesn't have the resources to compete in all of these areas.

Before (late 2007)

AMD TAM 2007

After (now)

AMD TAM 2008

The Notebook Roadmap

The biggest changes are in AMD's notebook roadmap, where executives announced six new processors slated to appear between 2009 and 2011. Last year, the big news was Shrike, the first platform that would include a processor, code-named Swift, with both a CPU and a GPU on the same silicon die. This was set to appear sometime in 2009 on the new 45nm process technology. Now these APUs (application processor units)--for both notebooks and desktops--have been pushed all the way back to 2011 and will debut at 32nm.

AMD's current notebook platform Puma, which uses Turion X2 Ultra dual-core processors (Griffin) and ATI Radeon Mobility 3000 series graphics, is a competitive product. But it is designed strictly for mainstream notebooks, the relatively inexpensive models with 14- or 15-inch displays that you see on Best Buy shelves. AMD doesn't have a solution for ultraportables, and at the opposite extreme, it doesn't have quad-core processors for desktop replacements and mobile workstations with 17-, and now 18-inch displays. The new lineup isn't as exciting from a technology standpoint--at least not until 2011--but it will address the entire notebook market.

In the first half of 2009, AMD will release the Yukon platform, which will initially include a dual-core processor code-named Conesus with 1MB of cache. This has been billed as AMD's netbook platform, but it doesn't compete with Intel Atom at all--Conesus is a 65nm chip that will use less than 25W--and it isn't designed even for the larger netbooks with 10- to 12-inch displays. AMD has been very clear that this is a chip for ultraportable notebooks, and it will most likely show up in ultraportables with 13.3-inch widescreen displays. Later in the year, AMD will add Geneva, a dual-core CPU manufactured using the new 45nm process with twice the cache and support DDR3 memory.

If all goes smoothly, AMD will probably announce its new mainstream notebook platform, Tigris, at the Computex tradeshow next June. The first CPU (Caspian) will be a dual-core with 2MB of cache and DDR2. By 2010 AMD plans to offer its first quad-core mobile processor (Champlain) with 2MB of cache and support for DDR3 memory. Both of these CPUs will be manufactured at 45nm.

The following year the APUs will finally show up on 32nm. These will include Ontario (dual-core, 1MB cache, DDR3) for ultraportables and Liano (quad-core, 4MB cache, DDR3) for both mainstream notebooks and desktops. Liano promises to be a technological marvel. It will be interesting to see of if AMD can pack all of this and a decent GPU on a single chip--all while using IBM/The Foundry Company's new 32nm process technology and new materials (high-k dielectrics and metal gates) for the first time.

Before (late 2007)

AMD Notebooks 2007

After (now)

AMD Client 2008

The Desktop Roadmap

AMD's desktop roadmap isn't quite as complicated. The big news yesterday was the announcement of the Phenom II X4. Previously known as Deneb, this AMD's first 45nm quad-core desktop chip, and it will have 8MB of cache and support DDR2 and later DDR3. It is part of the new Dragon platform for enthusiast PCs that will ship in the first quarter of next year, replacing the current high-end Spider platform with the original, star-crossed Phenom X4. In 2011, AMD is planning a 32nm high-end desktop processor, Orochi, with 'more than' four cores and 8MB of cache. This will use the Bulldozer cores that AMD has previously talked about.

There are two mainstream desktop platforms--Pisces for consumers and Kodiak for businesses. Both are slated for the second half of next year. They will use a different 45nm chip, Propos, also with four cores but with only 2MB of cache. This looks pretty similar to the old roadmap, especially for business PCs, but there's no longer any mention of triple-core (Heka or Regor) processors and the "Cartwheel" refresh for consumer desktops has disappeared. Sometime in 2011, AMD will shift to the 32nm Liano APUs for these mainstream markets. Finally, AMD is still planning to release a new platform for home theater PCs, code-named Maui, before the end of this year.

Before (late 2007)

AMD Consumer 2007-1

AMD Consumer 2007-2

AMD Business DTP 2007

After (now)

AMD Client 2008

The Server Roadmap

AMD met the schedule it set for Shanghai, its first 45nm Opteron, which is now shipping. According to last year's roadmap, AMD planned to follow-up this chip in the second half of 2009 with a new platform that supports DDR3 memory with Montreal four- and eight-core CPUs. The new roadmap instead shows a six-core server processor, code-named Istanbul, in 2009 that runs on the current server platform as well a new Fiorano platform, which will offer more virtualization features. The first server platform that supports DDR3 memory (Maranello) shows up in 2010, along with COUs with more cores--Magny-Cours and Sao Paolo--though the exact number isn't clear yet. These code names have appeared in news reports for several months so it is likely AMD adjusted its server roadmap some time ago.

Before (late 2007)

AMD Server 2007

After (now)

AMD Server 2008

Foundry Co. and Process Technology

At yesterday's meeting, Doug Grose, who will serve as CEO of the Foundry Company when AMD completes the spin-off, gave some of the first details on the future foundry's plans. Foundry Co. will operate two AMD fabs in Germany, Fab 36, which currently produces AMD's CPUs, and Fab 38, which would start production sometime in 2010. AMD manufactures its 65nm, and now 45nm, CPUs using process technology jointly developed with IBM and known as SOI, for silicon-on-insulator. AMD outsources production of its GPUs, however, to several foundries including TSMC and UMC in Taiwan, and Chartered in Singapore. The Foundry Co. also plans to manufacture some of AMD's GPUs, so it has licensed a different technology, 45nm and 32nm bulk CMOS, from IBM as well. And by the end of 2011 the Foundry Co. hopes to have a new fab in upstate New York up and running, though it would most likely start commercial production at 22nm sometime in 2012.

This plan is ambitious, especially given the limited capital budget, so it's not too surprising that when you compare the new plan to last year's process technology roadmap, it looks like things have slipped. The Foundry Co. plans to produce the first test chips on 32nm SOI in early 2010, and production would start sometime in second half of the year. Intel is almost exactly a full year ahead on process technology--it introduced the first 45nm chips in November 2007 and will start production at 32nm sometime late next year--so AMD and the Foundry Co. can't afford to let 32nm production slip much further.

Before (late 2007)

AMD Process 2007

After (now)

AMD Process 2008