It is often said that good things take time, and if that is true then AMD’s Fusion should prove to be exceptional considering the fact that it has been in the works since their $5.4billion acquisition of ATI four years ago. The official AMD copy for Fusion reads as:
“AMD Fusion is a new approach to processor design and software development, delivering powerful CPU and GPU capabilities for HD, 3D and data-intensive workloads in a single-die processor called an APU. APUs combine high-performance serial and parallel processing cores with other special-purpose hardware accelerators, enabling breakthroughs in visual computing, security, performance-per-watt and device form factor. ”
In short, Fusion is basically a standard processor (think CPU) and graphics processor (think GPU) in a single chip.
Recently AMD CEO Dirk Meyers advised analysts that the roadmap for Fusion would be making some detours. Originally AMD had planned to lead with their mainstream offering named Llano which was targeted for both desktop and notebook PC’s. It appears that now the green team from Texas will be leading with Ontario, a low-power package aimed primarily at netbooks and other minimalist computers, a change that is not sitting well with some analysts.
"It is disappointing," said Craig Berger, an analyst with FBR Capital Markets in an interview with the Statesman . Disappointing indeed, generally when most hardware companies are looking to launch a new product, especially an entirely new platform, they look the lead with their biggest guns hoping to grab prospective buyers with the wow-factor. Additionally a shift from launching with a mainstream part to a low-power offering can indicate a production or design concern on AMD’s side, further eroding analyst’s faith in the company.
AMD is no stranger to being the underdog. Intel has always eclipsed AMD in terms of capital, manufacturing capabilities and installation base. AMD’s key victories have been in terms of design innovations (Athlon processors come to mind) and their willingness to listen to and understand their customers needs. Fusion is AMD’s next big hope for a design win and a resulting shift in market share. Berger mentions “Intel is putting out phenomenal products right now. They are firing on all cylinders. If you want to keep pace, you need to be in the ballpark on (manufacturing) process technology, which AMD is not”. As with baseball, your team can only lose so many seasons before the fans quit going to the ballpark. If done right Fusion could prove to be a real make or break launch for AMD as Berger points out “[t]hey have a real shot at becoming good again, but it is going to require execution.”
All is not doom and gloom for AMD however, recent wins on the desktop graphics side have begun to turn the tables on their rival NVIDIA as well as win some favor among analysts. Graphics technology market analyst Jon Peddie is hopeful “It is a genuine inflection point in the PC market and game changing for AMD and the industry”.
Only time will tell if Fusion will truly prove to mark a come-from-behind-win for AMD or merely another strike out.