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AMD's 'Yukon' to look beyond netbooks

AMD's Yukon wil be launched in the second half of 2009 in the Middle East. (SUPPLIED)

By Nancy Sudheer

The netbook is not part of the future roadmap for chip manufacturer Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) as it focuses on its 'Yukon' platform – a thin and light 10-inch notebook at an approximate price point of $499 (Dh1,831), scheduled for the second half of 2009 in the Middle East.

"AMD announced the 'Yukon' platform as a step up to the netbook, as it enables the customer to play high definition videos and blu-ray DVDs without compromising on quality. There will be investments made going forward in thin and light notebooks and a new platform will be introduced in the next six months delivering more on the Yukon platform," said Alberto Bozzo, the newly-appointed corporate vice president and general manager for AMD in Europe, Middle East and Africa.

The Yukon platform is the closest that AMD has come to making a netbook platform such as Intel's Atom. However, AMD claims the Yukon will be in a higher performance bracket than the Atom. According to market reports, the Yukon will have 100 to 150 per cent better performance and will cost 30 to 35 per cent more than Intel's solution.

AMD will use the same architecture as it does in its mainstream notebook processors. The manufacturer has brought it down at a frequency and power envelope that fits into a smaller form factor notebook design.

Bozzo also stressed that though the netbook is popular and has gained relevance, it also has strong limitations. "Customers would soon realise that the product does not reflect what they really want to do. Therefore AMD is focusing on products, which are not specifically netbooks or a notebooks but in-between, delivering agile and stylish devices in terms of graphics and other features."

AMD recently announced the 12-inch HP Dv2 range, which is the first of the ultrathin notebooks on the same Yukon platform.

Bozzo said customers would see a slew of products being announced in the second half of the year, mainly because of the recent completion of Mubadala's investment in AMD. "We are happy about our roadmap and the investments in our labs have never been so strong. The deal with Mubadala has made the company financially strong. This has helped AMD hire new talent from outside the industry and focus on our main priority, which is driving profitable growth."

AMD last week received clearance from US authorities for a joint venture with two Abu Dhabi investment companies to help it compete against Intel.

The new venture is called The Foundry Company and the JV is with Advanced Technology Investment Company (ATIC), a firm owned by Abu Dhabi Government. ATIC will own a 55.6 per cent of the new entity.

The Foundry Company will include manufacturing facilities in Dresden, with plans to expand that site as well as build a state-of-the-art facility in Saratoga County, New York.

The new company will have its principal headquarters in Silicon Valley, and its research and development, and manufacturing teams in New York, Dresden, and Austin, Texas.

Simultaneously, Abu Dhabi-based investment firm Mubadala Development Company, increased its investment in AMD to 19.3 per cent from the current 8.1 per cent through the purchase of shares and warrants worth $314 million (Dh1.1bn).

Bozzo said AMD will develop a long-term partnership with investors and local governments in this part of the world, and the region is emerging as an important investment destination. Mubadala's investment has helped AMD focus on new technology and on their strategy of 'Fusion'.

"This concept helps AMD focus on customer value and set a vision for the evolution of our technology. Fusion is about the CPU, graphic and chipset on one platform. This enables customers to play and work together. The investment would be in all classes of products, including game consoles and high-end servers, with a big accent on notebooks," Bozzo said.

For AMD it is no more about the CPU but the platform, as Bozzo cited the example of the 'Dragon' platform targeted at the desktop and then the 'Puma' for the notebook. The manufacturer is looking forward to the 'Tigress' platform, which is focused on the thin notebook category. On the graphics front, AMD just announced its first 14-inch nanometer chip – the first in the world

In desktops, AMD has partnered with HP for its Touchsmart range, which is also called Kitchen PC. As Intel popularises the nettop (combination of the desktop and netbook) concept, AMD is betting on these kinds of platforms.

"The HP Touchsmart is also an interesting product as it is like an all-in-one allowing consumers to access the internet and all kinds of applications. It is a niche area but is increasingly being made available to consumers," said Bozzo.

There has also been a lot of speculation on AMD investing in a research base in the Middle East. "There are investments being made in R&D in the US and UK and we don't want to disclose plans in other parts of the world presently. We are a global company with a diversified presence. There is also a huge focus on designing green products."

The global economic downturn does not seem to have deterred AMD's focus on profitable growth. Bozzo still sees customers asking for value-for-money products and the chip manufacturer claims they are able to deliver this value on a volume basis.

Moving forward with the Abu Dhabi investment, AMD also sees the region as a forefront for growth. "Western Europe is mature and eastern countries, especially Russia, will have growth. But in the Middle East huge investments are still happening. Therefore, we are investing in sales coverage and launching specific products and solutions to fuel growth in these areas. This will also translate into increasing headcount in our regional offices in Middle East and Africa. In the Middle East, AMD has offices in the UAE, Egypt and Saudi Arabia," Bozza said.

Despite its plans of growth, AMD's last quarter results and share prices have seen a downward trend recently. "Growth will be a combination of factors consisting of organisational set up, internal cost and savings helping the company to be profitable. As part of the deal with Mubadala there will be an injection of cash in the balance sheet and the structure of the deal allows the company to be agile. From a sales point of view it makes us focused, helping integration within the management structure to deliver products to the market," Bozzo said.

Projects designed in the first half of 2009 are improvements in terms of the roadmap for AMD products.

"The new announcements will target many categories of products such as notebooks, business class PCs and six-way servers. With the Mubadala investment, the focus is on being a long-term player and aggressively targeting the mainstream market. We will redesign our partner network in the Emea region to overcome under distribution or over distribution of products," he added.