Future Prospects

AMD expects Q1 2012 to be down by around 8%.  This is in line with seasonal expectations.  Unlike previous quarters, AMD does not expect there to be a supply issue with current 32 nm parts.  If we look at this past month, AMD did introduce several new Llano based SKUs to the marketplace.  This is probably the best indication that AMD has shown that they have overcome most of the yield issues with this chip.

Bulldozer will be the primary server/desktop CPU throughout the first half of 2012.

If there was one area that AMD was extremely excited about, it is Trinity.  Trinity is the code name for the next generation APU based on the revised Bulldozer core called Piledriver.  It also includes a VLIW4 based GPU which will improve performance over the previous VLIW5 unit featured in Llano.  AMD has hinted that this product will be released near the end of 1H 2012, so expect there to be a lot of Trinity based parts around Computex time.  The new APU will require a new socket infrastructure on the desktop as compared to current A-series CPUs, so desktop parts are likely to show up later than the notebook units.  AMD claims that the hard lessons learned with the current Llano APU in terms of yields and production has had a positive effect on the yields of Trinity based parts.  The introduction for the notebook parts will be early Summer, which translates to a nice amount of SKUs available for the “back to school” season.  Currently design wins for Trinity have outpaced those of Llano, which in turn was the most successful notebook cpu/graphics part that AMD has released to date.  The lowest TDP Trinity part is expected to be in the 17 watt range.  This will allow these processors to be included in the ultra thin and light market, which Intel is pushing as the “Ultrabook”.

Eventually the desktop and server markets will get the Piledriver core, but that will not be until at least Q3 2012.  Piledriver is an optimized design which promises higher IPC and comparable (and possibly lower) power consumption per clock.  For the time being AMD and GLOBALFOUNDRIES are working on the production of current Bulldozer parts to improve power consumption and yields.  While not mentioned in the call, there should be at least one speed bump on the desktop side before the release of Trinity in late Q2.

Tahiti is currently the most powerful GPU on the planet.  AMD radically changed their architecture to focus on both 3D performance and GPGPU flexibility.

AMD is looking to quickly expand their HD 7000 series of offerings and to further leverage TSMC’s 28 nm process.  The HD 7950 should be announced soon, and the lower end 7000 parts will start to appear throughout the next two quarters.  AMD does have a definite lead right now with NVIDIA, but I would expect them to remain wary of NVIDIA and their Kepler based parts that are expected to be released in the next several months.

Overall things do not look as dire for AMD as many expect.  Their APU lineup is very strong with Llano, Brazos, and the upcoming Trinity.  Their server marketshare has increased a few  percent overall, which has been an area that AMD dropped significantly over the past few years.  32 nm yields are much better and will not hold the company back in terms of supply.  While AMD did not have a breakout year, they have done enough to survive and profit through tough times.  Intel has some serious design and process advantages when it comes to CPUs, but AMD still holds a very distinct edge in graphics.  As we move towards more integrated parts, AMD will leverage this expertise to their benefit, and will be able to offer compelling options to the market that are markedly different from what Intel has.

AMD has done a lot on the business side as well.  They are shrinking their debt, they are increasing their free cash flow, and they have pared down their workforce.  In terms of business, they are far more competitive than they have been in years.  The focus on the bottom line will help the company survive, and hopefully thrive with new and innovative products and ideas.  They look to be setting a new course in comparison to Intel in the coming years, and hopefully that will allow them to grow and exploit new markets.  Next week at the analyst meeting we should learn more about this new direction that AMD hopes to pursue.

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