AMD not interested in low-cost tablets

Tablets with AMD's upcoming Temash chips will be priced around $US499 or $US599

AMD is not interested in entering the low-cost tablet market and will rely on Windows 8 as it tries to find its bearings in the fast-growing tablet market, the company said.

The company is looking to make a mark in tablets priced starting at around $US499 or $US599, said Lisa Su, senior vice president and general manager of global business units at AMD, in an interview from the International CES trade show in Las Vegas.

"We're betting heavily on Windows 8," Su said.

Windows 8 may be off to a slow start, but will catch on in the future, Su said. Windows 8 tablets in many different screen sizes and features will be released in the future, and AMD is interested in higher-end tablets that can run full applications and graphics, Su said.

The company is also not interested in enabling Android tablets at the moment, Su said.

Many popular low-cost tablets such as Google's Nexus 7 and Amazon's Kindle Fire HD, both of which are priced at $US199, run on the Android OS. Tablets running Windows RT and Windows 8 largely start at around $US499.

AMD at CES showed off a Windows 8 tablet with an upcoming tablet chip code-named Temash, which is the company's first tablet-specific chip. So far the company has been repurposing netbook chips for tablets, and just a handful of tablets run on AMD processors.

Temash meets AMD's goal of making a chip for tablets that offers balanced performance while providing a long battery life, Su said. Right now tablets are mostly used for content consumption, and AMD has an opportunity to fill a void with Temash, Su said.

The quad-core Temash will be able to run a full OS like Windows 8, while drawing less than 5 watts of power and providing 10 hours of battery life. AMD demonstrated a prototype 10.6-inch tablet made by Wistron that played full 1080p high-definition video.

Tablets with Temash will become available in the first half of this year.

But AMD has yet to scratch the surface of the tablet market, which is dominated by ARM. AMD also trails Intel, whose tablet-specific Atom chip code-named Clover Trail is used in tablets from companies like Hewlett-Packard, Lenovo, Dell, Acer and Asus.

AMD also hopes to bring down the price of touchscreen laptops with its chips to around $US499 as it prepares to wage a price war with Intel.

"We will be able to get higher-quality designs into lower price points," Su said.

Hewlett-Packard this week announced the $US649 Pavilion Touchsmart Sleekbook laptop with a touchscreen and AMD's chip code-named Trinity. AMD is working with PC makers to bring prices down, and Su said it could be a little while until the prices reach the $499 range.

A majority of touch laptops are available with Intel's latest Core processors, but have not been selling well partly due to the high prices. Intel this week at CES said it is working to bring the price of touchscreen ultrabooks down to $US599 by the end of the year as a way to prop up sales.

HP said it was able to offer the Touchsmart Sleekbook at a lower price due to the flexibility in features included in laptops with AMD chips. On the other hand, PC makers have to comply with Intel's design rules and include specific features in touch ultrabooks that can add to the laptop's price.

AMD at CES introduced new chips code-named Richland and Kabini for PCs. Richland will be a follow-up to the existing chips code-named Trinity, will be part of the A8 and A10 product line, and will appear in performance thin and light laptops and desktops. The new chips will be 20 percent to 40 percent faster than the Trinity chips.

The quad-core Kabini chips will be part of the A4 and A6 product line and appear in thin and light laptops. The new chips deliver 50 per cent more overall performance than existing Brazos chips that go into netbooks and low-power laptops. Kabini-based laptops will deliver more than 10 hours of battery life, which is a slight improvement from Brazos laptops.

Agam Shah covers PCs, tablets, servers, chips and semiconductors for IDG News Service. Follow Agam on Twitter at @agamsh. Agam's e-mail address is agam_shah@idg.com

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