AMD not pursuing ARM license, sticking to x86

AMD will stick to x86 architecture for tablets

Advanced Micro Devices shot down rumors that it is pursuing an ARM license, saying it will stick to developing chips for tablets around the x86 architecture.

AMD is not seeking an ARM license as it has a strong CPU and graphics technology around which to build chips for tablets, said John Taylor, director of client product and software marketing at AMD. AMD currently makes computer chips based on the x86 architecture, and next year plans to release its first dedicated tablet chips based on the x86 instruction set.

"We've made a big bet on APUs, which are x86," Taylor said in an interview, referring to accelerated processing units.

There was speculation this week that AMD was considering taking an ARM microprocessor license to make low-power chips after Jem Davies, vice president of technology at the media processing division at ARM, was invited to speak at an AMD developer conference in June. ARM CEO Warren East added fuel to the fire by commenting on the opportunity his company sees for AMD to use ARM processors in the future.

"Clearly, AMD has signaled that they are going through a bit of a rethink of their strategy at the moment. And therefore ... that presents as far as we are concerned ... a heightened opportunity," East said on a conference call to discuss financial results earlier this week.

"At the moment, they don't use ARM microprocessors and as far as we can see there is an opportunity ... where they might use ARM microprocessors in the future. You've got to expect that we'll be trying to persuade them of that," East said.

AMD has been criticized for a lethargic approach to entering the fast-growing tablet market, which is dominated by ARM. ARM processors, which are considered more power-efficient than the PC-centric x86 processors, are used in most smartphones and tablets today, including Apple's iPad, Samsung's Galaxy Tab, Research In Motion's PlayBook and Motorola's Xoom.

After the iPad started shipping in April last year, AMD denied interest in tablets for months, saying it would continue focusing on PCs. The company announced its first tablet chips in November, but in early January a management shakeup led to the resignation of CEO Dirk Meyer and the departure of some top-level executives in February. AMD is being run by interim CEO Thomas Seifert, with the search for a new chief still on.

ARM this week announced that it signed a record 39 processor licenses during the first fiscal quarter of 2011, with revenue growing year-over-year by 29 percent to US$185.5 million. A total of 1.15 billion mobile devices including smartphones and tablets have shipped with ARM processors, the company said.

Earlier this week, the company also announced that licensed its processors to LG.

Chip companies making x86 processors -- Intel and AMD -- have minimal presence in the tablet market. Tablets with Intel's first dedicated tablet chip, code-named Oak Trail, are expected to become available next month. AMD next year will release tablet processors code-named Wichita and Krishna, which will include up to four CPU cores. Just like AMD's recent Fusion laptop and desktop chips, the processors integrate the CPU and graphics processor inside one chip.

There are few commonalities between AMD and ARM, but both share the same vision on graphics technology, which is why ARM's Davies was invited to speak at the developer conference, Taylor said.

Like AMD, ARM is developing multicore CPUs and programmable graphics cores, which are important in handling multimedia. The chip makers also believe in harnessing the computing power provided by CPUs and graphics processors, Taylor said.

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