Advanced Micro Devices hopes to brush off a slow start to compete against ARM and Intel in the Windows 8 tablet market through new customer announcements and future chips.
The company will announce between six to 19 tablets for its Z-60 tablet chip, which is code-named Hondo and was announced earlier this month, said John Taylor, director of marketing at AMD. The new tablets will be announced by January next year, around the time of the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, where some of the top electronics makers show off their latest wares.
Currently only one tablet, Fujitsu's Stylistic Q572, has been introduced with the dual-core Z-60 chip. The Windows 8 tablet has a 10-inch screen, two cameras, a removable battery and weighs 748 grams, which is heavier than many of the Windows 8 tablets, which weigh between 500 grams and 700 grams. The tablet's price is 90,800 yen ($1,136), and will become available at the end of November.
AMD is also looking forward to the new tablet chips, Kabini and Tamesh, which will have between two and four CPU cores and next-generation graphics cores. The new chips will be released next year and bring better performance and battery life to tablets. Earlier this year the company ripped up its old chip roadmap and introduced a new strategy for tablet, server and PC chips. Hondo is based on the company's old chip roadmap, but the newer tablet chips next year will have the faster and more power-efficient Jaguar CPU core, which is part of the new chip roadmap.
AMD has made the tablet market one of its top priorities as it tries to move away from a heavy reliance on the slumping PC business. AMD last year introduced the Z-01 tablet chip, which failed. The lack of a tablet strategy was one of the reasons former AMD CEO Dirk Meyer resigned in early 2011.
Former Lenovo exec Rory Read was appointed AMD's CEO in August last year, and the company has put together a new management team and chip roadmap. But AMD continues to struggle, with the company last week announcing that it would lay off 1,800 employees as part of a restructuring plan. The company also recorded revenue decline in the most recent fiscal quarter on a challenging economy and weak demand for its products.
AMD has to face off with both ARM and Intel as it tries to get in the tablet market, said Dean McCarron, principal analyst at Mercury Research. Microsoft is unveiling Windows 8 for x86 chips, which provides an avenue for AMD to compete, McCarron said. Microsoft is providing Windows RT for ARM processors.
The tablet market has evolved around ARM, and the x86 chips from companies like Intel and AMD have been much slower on adoption. The iPad and other Android tablets run on ARM processors, and Microsoft has already announced the $499 Surface RT tablet, which is based on a quad-core Tegra 3 chip from Nvidia.
But even in the x86 market, AMD is trailing Intel. Top PC makers like Lenovo, Dell, Hewlett-Packard, Samsung, Acer and Asus have announced Windows 8 tablets with Intel's tablet-specific Atom chip code-named Clover Trail. Intel has said it is tracking more than 20 design wins, so more tablets with Clover Trail chips are expected to be released in the near future.
The feature set AMD is offering on Hondo -- which is a repurposed netbook chip -- is adequate for tablets, but questions remain on how competitive the company can be in the tablet market, McCarron . Even a small design win can be adequate for AMD, but it is not comparable to the progress ARM has made via products such as the iPad, McCarron said.