AMD sees no Geode chip replacement in sight

AMD on Monday said it has no replacement for the aging Geode low-power chips that are used in netbooks and set-top boxes.

Advanced Micro Devices on Monday said it has no replacement planned for the aging Geode low-power chip, creating uncertainty for its use in products like future XO laptops made by One Laptop Per Child.

There won't be a Geode successor and the company has no core microarchitecture planned to replace the chip, AMD executives said. The comments end speculation about the future of Geode, an integrated chip used in netbooks like OLPC's XO laptop, ultramobile PCs and devices like set-top boxes.

"There are no plans for a follow-on product to today's available AMD Geode LX products, but we expect to make this very successful processor available to customers as long as the market demands," said Phil Hughes, an AMD spokesman.

The chip is too old for further development, said Dean McCarron, president for Mercury Research. Chip designs and manufacturing processes have improved since it was first introduced.

AMD is also trying to channel its resources smartly during tough economic times and Geode isn't high on its list of priorities, McCarron said.

"Geode was a nice niche market for them, but we are in a very different environment. You can't split your attention too many ways," he said. Geode doesn't contribute to AMD's bottom line like the mainstream chips.

AMD could re-enter the ultra-low-power-chip space after its fortunes improve, McCarron said. It could shrink down existing low-power chips like the Athlon Neo, which are based on newer designs, McCarron said. AMD earlier in the month launched Athlon Neo for ultrathin laptops.

But company executives say that's unlikely.

"We'll continue to sell the Geode line of products, but as far as are we going to be bringing out a new core microarchitecture specifically targeted at that space -- no, we won't be doing that. It's not a part of our future product road map. You are going to continue to see us offer lower-power processors just like the Neo being offered at 15 watts," said Randy Allen, senior vice president of the computing solutions group at AMD, in an interview earlier this month.

Geode bundles an x86 processor core, a graphics core and other components on a single chip. The Geode LX series of chips runs at speeds of up to 600MHz and draws between 0.9 watts and 5 watts of power.

Without an updated version of the Geode, AMD may struggle to win a contract to supply the next-generation OLPC laptop, the XO-2.

OLPC representatives did not respond to a request for comment about Geode's future. But in an e-mail sent in late December, a spokesman said the group hopes to make some changes with the new laptop. "One challenge with [XO-2] has been to obtain the desired system-on-a-chip, while at the same time avoiding an exclusive arrangement with a single processor vendor," Jim Gettys of OLPC said at the time.

A Wiki page for the OLPC cites Intel and Via among companies that could potentially supply chips for the XO-2.

AMD is working with OLPC on its vision and discussing chips from the product road map that might fit into XO-2, Allen said. "But I don't think we have any specifics in terms of the XO-2," Allen said.

Geode's origins can be traced back to the mid-90s when Cyrix developed the MediaGX integrated chip for sub-US$1,000 mainstream PCs, according to McCarron. Cyrix merged with National Semiconductor in 1999 and developed the first Geode chips for embedded devices from MediaGX design. AMD ultimately bought the Geode business from National Semiconductor in 2003.

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