There used to be an easy way to tell time in the processor business: Advanced Micro Devices would have three bad years and one good year, and Intel would have one bad year and three good years.
Strategic changes and new products like the Opteron, however, have transformed AMD from a company too often known for gaffes and financial losses into a major supplier of processors. Intel, meanwhile, has tripped over itself several times during the past three years.
Intel is now in a position to reverse its mistakes with a new line of chips. AMD's Chief Technology Officer Phil Hester, however, says that the smaller competitor isn't resting on its laurels. It continues to improve its chips and, with the acquisition of ATI, will release integrated chips for notebooks and other devices.
Will it be enough to keep a reinvigorated Intel at bay? That will be one of the big topics of discussion at the Intel Developer Forum next week in San Francisco. Hester, who worked at IBM for 23 years, says AMD is ready. He recently sat down with CNET News.com to share some of his views.
Q: It's kind of an interesting twist that AMD is doing "platformization"--that is, offering reference designs and more than one part to PC makers--because for years, the idea was to concentrate on processors and let your partners make chipsets.
Phil Hester: A lot of it is driven by what the OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) have asked us to do. It started off actually in the mobile space. Last year, for the first time, we did a reference design in the notebook space.
The OEMs would like us to do more of the validation and certification work. Each of them still wants their own unique packaging in the notebook space, but kind of a core design, if you will, that's been validated. So we work with two or three wireless vendors, a couple of graphics vendors, and then make sure that we pick selected elements from that.
But they don't like the Intel approach of saying, "You can only do this one, this one and this one." They want us to be able to say, OK, we validated with these--let's say, three wireless chipset vendors and these two graphics vendors.