Published on January 14th, 2015 | by ryankapsar3
Policy and Games: AMD – A Rudderless Ship
Policy and Games is a look at tech policy and the gaming world. The views expressed in these articles are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of KBMOD or any of its contributors.
The past few months haven’t been kind to AMD. First Lisa Su, the first female CEO, ousted Rory Read. Now three leaders have left including the General Manager John Byrnes, CMO Colette LaForce and Chief Strategist Rajan Naik. Furthermore, it’s pretty clear that the remaining two long term leaders, Mark Papermaster CTO and Devindar Kumar were sort of bribed to stay with restricted stock. This is on top of delays in their desktop, graphics, and mobile chipset as well as a 7% reduction in workforce via layoffs.
I think it’s pretty clear that AMD no longer has a strategy. AMD, while I was working there, was starting to put out some cool stuff that could really define the future of computing. Their APUs were best in class and could have been deployed in a lot of really cool applications. However, those never appeared materialize and now Intel is starting to attack the SoC (system on chip) market. While Intel’s Iris graphic chipset is way behind AMD in pure power, I think it’s going to play a serious role in the up coming years especially since Intel is leveraging a similar enough design that they are able to use the Open Compute Language that AMD championed.
Another area of concern for AMD fans is that John Byrne, shortly before his departure, announced at CES that AMD was steering clear of the IoT phenomenon. I found this surprising considering that their strategy, only a year and a half ago, was to conquer the embedded computing space – which has essentially turned into IoT. Since they restructured again, (that’s about 4 times in the past 4 years!) they have clearly decided to forego that space. The IoT chipsets are likely going to be a disruptive technology to computing. For instance, this computer you can dock and upgrade every year for about $200, while Intel released a full Windows computer on an HDMI stick for $150. In the past I wrote that I thought that the dockable phone that would turn into a full computer would be the long term future, but these are the incremental steps to get us there.
Even in the graphics space AMD is starting to flounder with poor quality, as @NipnopsTV reported with his year old or so 7970 card. This is the continuation of an unfortunate trend for AMD, as their graphics experts are being let go, we should expect their drivers to continue to be poor or half baked. The most alarming piece of news related to this, is that nVidia released the 900 series 4 months ago and AMD still has no answer. It is likely that some of this is caused by shortages in TSMC’s fab space as well as the fact that both TSMC and Global Foundries (This used to be AMD’s Fabs) have failed to move down to the next generation of chip sizes. While this has hit both AMD and nVidia on the graphics side of things, this has had no impact on Intel and will continue to cause problems for AMD on the CPU side of things. AMD needs to have an answer to the 900 series soon, as the next set of games, like Witcher III will likely require the top end graphics card on the market to run at ultra settings. Without a card to enable those settings, it’s likely that AMD could miss this entire refresh cycle for top end gamers.
So, the list of concerns runs long for AMD: no answer to the 900 series, subpar drivers for existing cards, and no plan for IoT or the future. The company is not investing in the disruptive technology hitting their industry, their market cap is only $2.06B and their shares are at $2.66. They may be positioning themselves to get bought or could be at risk for a hostile take over for their IP or pushed into bankruptcy since their IP might be worth more than the company.
Could we eventually see a Samsung R390 and a Samsung Kaveri processor? They gobbled up a ton of AMD’s engineers in 2013 so this definitely could happen in the near future.