When I spoke with AMD recently about the company’s new Brazos chips including the low power AMD Ontario and Zacate processors, the company made it clear that while there was nothing stopping PC makers from using these chips in tablets, they were really designed with low power laptop and desktop computers in mind. While most companies in the PC space are looking at tablets (and phones) as the next big thing(s), AMD figured it would focus on the current big thing and try to produce some chips which could take some market share away from Intel.
That reasoning makes sense for a company that’s currently in second place. But it doesn’t look good to shareholders if you’re deliberately ignoring a hot new market segment, and that may have been part of the reason that former AMD CEO Dirk Meyer was booted from his job earlier this month.
It may also have something to do with Interim CEO Thomas Seifert’s comments during a recent earnings call. CNET reports that Seifert is suggesting that AMD’s chips make sense for next-generation tablets as consumers start to look for devices with higher performance graphics than you can get from a typical machine with an Intel Atom chip.
It’s probably hard to make a direct comparison between AMD’s chips and competitor NVIDIA’s increasingly popular Tegra 2 platform, since Brazos chips are based on x86 architecture while Tegra 2 is an ARM-based chip. You can’t currently run Windows on ARM-based chips, although that’s set to change in the future. While you can run Android on x86, it’s probably overkill to use a Brazos chip in an Android tablet when devices with Tegra 2 or competing chips from Samsung, Qualcomm, Texas Instruments, Freescale, and others can all handle 1080p HD video playback.
Still, it’s good to see that AMD is thinking about the space more seriously now. It will likely be another few years before the company has a chip designed specifically for tablets and/or phones, but there’s no reason AMD shouldn’t be trying to push its current line of chips as competition for Intel’s latest Atom chips in the tablet space just as it’s doing in the netbook space.