February 1, 2005 10:00 AM PST
AMD wants its name in pixels
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and CE devices," said Kevin Krewell, editor-in-chief of the Microprocessor Report. "The PC software (Weber) refers to is in general too bloated in terms of code size and complexity for CE devices. Just saying there's a ton of software out there is meaningless because none of it was written for CE devices. There are plenty of products out there where people have ported Linux to platforms other than x86."
Although AMD is aiming to offer lower-price x86 chips, cost may remain an issue even if it succeeds, as RISC and MIPS chips have traditionally sold for less than x86 processors.
"If AMD's willing to close that gap, I think it'll help a lot," Krewell said. "It would need to make parts in the $20 range or below. The list price on a TiVo is $199, so how much are they going to pay for a processor to put in that box?"
AMD Chief Executive Hector Ruiz predicted that AMD would soon be selling x86 chips for less than $1 when he introduced the company's "x86 Everywhere" strategy in November. That lays out AMD's vision of an x86 chip that can scale from everything from a larger server down to a palmtop device.
Still, AMD believes that it's already gaining in some areas, including PC-like Internet connectivity devices and set-top boxes. The company's Personal Internet Communicator, or PIC, an inexpensive, PC-like Internet access device, uses a Geode GX 533 chip.
AMD also offers the Athlon-based Geode NX for devices such as thin clients, point-of-sale systems, kiosks and printers. Its system-on-a-chip Geodes, such as the SC1200 for set-top boxes, are designed to handle all of the functions a given device needs by including a processor core along with a host of controllers needed to run video screens and other peripherals. Weber indicated that AMD's future Geode plans include such all-in-one chips.
AMD has hedged its bets in some ways by continuing to offer MIPS processors. During January, it unveiled a personal media player concept design based on its Alchemy Au1200 MIPs processor.
"We're not here to force (the x86) processor on people," Weber said. "The bulk of the software today is actually MIPS and ARM...so we're offering those now.
"We believe that over time, the value of x86 will increase, and you'll see us offer more and more x86 (chips) hitting the price point, the power point, the capability that another architecture might have offered but with the software compatibility," Weber said.
Even consumer electronics devices that are only dedicated to one job will require more software for connectivity and file sharing--in AMD's view a reason for them to use x86 chips, Weber predicts. The company will thus continue to add more specialized chips to the Geode clan over time.
"Expect to see things from us--a few new things--each year," Weber said. "There's stuff in the works this year for higher performance, a generation of the basic Geode processors that's actually higher-performance and lower-power."