AMD’s demos at CES last week were primarily focused on graphics and its new Lightning Bolt interconnect, but the company did give notice that it intends to position Trinity in an “Ultrathin” segment to counter Intel’s “Ultrabooks.” AMD didn’t articulate any sort of strategy for its new products beyond claiming that it would offer comparative thicknesses and weights at price points $100-$200 lower than Intel.
This poses something of a problem. Competing on price is generally seen as the last refuge of companies that can’t compete on other merits. In AMD’s case, the company has a strong graphics division and Trinity is expected to do well against Ivy Bridge, but overall product performance and strong pressure from OEMs may have forced the smaller CPU manufacturer to cave to OEM demands for lower CPU prices. Intel largely resisted such calls earlier this year, though weak ultrabook sales through the end of 2011 may have been a result.
AMD’s product demos focused more on laptop graphics than ultrathin wins
As DigiTimes notes, AMD originally intended to compete in this segment with next-generation Krishna/Wichita APUs, but is repositioning Trinity to carry the load. This lines up with our forecast back when broke news of the cancellation. AMD is planning a 17W APU for this segment, but it’s going to have a hard time matching Intel’s performance at that wattage — which is where the price cuts come in.
We’ll know more about AMD’s plans when the company holds its next Financial Analyst Day in February, but Read has his work cut out for him. When netbooks hit the market in 2008, then-CEO Dirk Meyer took the stage to talk about AMD’s intent to create an inexpensive notebook platform that would deliver a level of performance superior to anything found in an Atom-powered netbook. Brazos and Llano were the result, and they delivered on that promise.
Photos of design wins for AMD are few and far between, so here are some CES dancers
So far, AMD’s Ultrathin initiative looks to be little more than an attempt to ride Intel’s coattails with an inferior CPU that can’t command a better price tag. If Read wants to halt the company’s slide, he needs to articulate a coherent vision for the company’s products that doesn’t rely on bolting a robust GPU and scorbutic CPU together and hoping customers don’t notice. A strong debut for the Piledriver CPU core, transparent roadmap for 28nm Brazos, and a coherent plan for improving the Bulldozer architecture would go a long way to restoring faith in AMD’s ability to execute.