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Last week AMD had a small number of us out to their old headquarters in Silicon Valley to discuss their roadmap and efforts targeting business that they announced today. Because many of those in the audience were financial analysts, they focused a great deal on market improvements like doubling their design wins in laptops and desktops, hitting processor shipment records in commercial platforms in the second quarter, and sales advances in Fortune 500 companies.
Highlighted wins included the small form factor HP EliteDesk 705, HP EliteBook 745 and the 27-inch Apple iMac all-in-one with the new Radeon R9 processor. Backing up their favorable forecast for the future were IDC predictions that the PC not only isn’t dead but will continue as a major user productivity tool “for the foreseeable future.” This is good for AMD because they don’t have any position on tablets (which are currently in decline) or smartphones (an area where even Intel is having trouble penetrating).
AMD’s Sustaining Advantage
AMD’s sustaining advantage (which has been under-emphasized) is that they are the only vender that balances graphics and processing in the x86 space. In effect, they are the only vendor that can blend solutions across high-end graphics and the CPU in either the desktop or server space, and they are beginning to bring out solutions that showcase this advantage.
Their greatest advancements to date are in their mobile (for them this means laptop) solutions, and they are announcing their intention to improve performance per watt by 25x by 2020. That’s a long time out, but they pointed to results for their next generation Excavator cores in line with a 50 percent benchmarked improvement in overall performance and a 68 percent improvement in graphics performance. This equates to doubling the battery life generation over generation, which should take them to the eight- to ten-hour threshold in most mainstream laptop configurations.
Expect them to continue to highlight this blended performance and efficiency advantage in configurations that include either an AMD APU (blended CPU/GPU) or a bundled CPU and GPU configuration that uses AMD exclusively.
One of the more interesting parts of their roll-out was the introduction of their new security initiative, which now includes a dedicated ARM-based, security-focused processor. All this processor does is focus on security, and it provides a level of independent monitoring that should be particularly effective against malware that typically fools anti-virus products. These mostly fall in the rootkit category, which reside underneath the operating system and can be nearly impossible to detect unless there is an independent compute function specifically looking for these bad actors.
At the event, Microsoft specifically called out this technology as supported and appreciated by the Windows 10 team, expressing their support and confidence in the effort. This is because it can be used to provide a unique level of security which can isolate and uniquely protect sensitive applications and interfaces.
AMD touted its work with a variety of partners—the most interesting was a solution that could, on command, remotely destroy the security processor, rendering all of the data on the laptop or desktop PC inaccessible. This was done by spiking the current to the chip, causing it to fail catastrophically. It would be particularly useful in a WAN-connected laptop, where it could protect against in-transit theft.
AMD announced a number of unique enterprise-focused benefits connected to its commercial-grade processors. One was a higher, commercial-grade quality assurance process which puts more rigor behind testing for processors targeting the commercial market. Another was a 36-month extended warranty through the OEM for these commercial parts. They added a 24-month product longevity commitment, assuring firms they could continue to buy the same part for up to 24 months, and they provided assurances that the image that resides on AMD products can remain current for 18 months. (Granted, with today’s security risks I doubt anyone will want an image to last that long, but if they do, AMD will assure it.)
As you would expect for a business-focused part, AMD promises their solution will be compliant with industry standard tools, will come with plug-ins for popular management consoles and will be wrapped with the AMD Control Center, which focuses on small business and provides one-click utility access.
AMD Came to Play
The global message of AMD’s announcement is that with AMD you can get more for the same price: more memory, solid state drive, better graphics, all resulting in more performance, and potentially higher reliability, for the laptop or PC. They aren’t arguing their processors are faster but that systems that use them are better balanced and thus outperform their competition.
In a money-tight market, the idea of a value targeting business is a compelling one. That’s what AMD is promising: if you are looking for a value, AMD has the better platform because they focus on making the entire system more balanced.
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