AMD Blasts Rumors of Dropping x86 for ARM

Recently we learned that AMD will be hosting the inaugural AMD Fusion Developer Summit (AFDS) at the Meydenbauer Center in Bellevue, Washington on June 13-16. The surprising news is that a keynote will be presented by ARM’s VP of technology Jem Davies who will talk about the future of heterogeneous computing and ARM's support for standards such as OpenCL. Now there's talk that ARM is trying to pull AMD away from the ancient x86 architecture altogether.

"AMD is a successful company selling microprocessors," ARM CEO Warren East said in a recent interview. "ARM is in the business of licensing microprocessor designs. It is perfectly natural that we should have been trying to sell microprocessor designs to AMD for about the last ten years. Hitherto we haven't been successful."

But that may change in the near future. "AMD has signaled they are going through a rethink of their strategy, and that must provide a heightened opportunity for ARM," East added. "They might use ARM microprocessors in the future and you've got to expect that we would be trying to persuade them of that."

East speculated that AMD would likely focus on ARM's upcoming Cortex-A15 as a possible license if negotiations were to start today, abandoning x86 and the expense of bringing the chips to tablets and smartphones. He also didn't rule out the possibility of licensing the Cortex-A8 and Cortex-A9 tech as well. There's even speculation that AMD could modify its Fusion architecture to make room for both ARM and x86 cores in addition to the graphics cores.

But AMD doesn't plan on ditching the tried and true x86 architecture anytime soon. John Taylor, director of client product and software marketing at AMD, shot down any rumors of a possible ARM licensing Friday morning, pointing to the company's strong CPU and graphics technology.

"We've made a big bet on APUs, which are x86," Taylor said in an interview.

Next year the company will release its first dedicated tablet chips (Wichita, Krishna) based on the x86 instruction set. These will include up to four cores and combine the CPU and GPU like the Fusion platform. The company is even recruiting engineers to create chipset drivers for Google's Android OS, indicating that any type of licensing allegiance with ARM isn't in the immediate future.

Friday Taylor said that ARM and AMD share a few commonalities, and that is why Davies was invited to speak at the developer's conference in June. Both are developing multicore CPUs and programmable graphics cores, and both also believe in harnessing the combined computing power provided by CPUs and GPUs.

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  • hellwig
    Who was saying AMD would drop x86 entirely for ARM? That would be a bit ridiculous. AMD would simply become an ARM manufacturer (like TI, Nvidia, Qualcomm, Samsung, etc..). However, AMD seems to be adamantly denying any desire to create ARM processors, which is silly if you ask me. They need to branch-out, not be tied to x86 and be at the mercy of whatever Intel decides to do next (e.g. another SSE extension). AMD has to hope Intel will even license that tech to them, and then be able to afford it. With ARM, the prices are fair because so many are already manufacturing the chips. AMD has the experience to start making good ARM products and getting those products out there.

    Hell, if Intel weren't so invested in x86 (they have to keep their patents alive), even they might start making ARM processors. Thing is, Intel wants to own the market, you can't own a market making the same thing everyone else makes (which is why they so desperately want AMD out of the x86 business). AMD seems to be trying to follow Intel. At this point, AMD should just be trying to make money. Even when they were better, AMD still couldn't beat Intel.

    Right now, people are buying ARM, it's an exploding market (more people own cell phones than computers). It just makes sense to be in on that market, rather than trying to push the inefficient, long-in-the-tooth x86 on everyone. Let Intel waste their billions on that folly. If Intel carves a market out for ultra-mobile x86 processors, you can serve up your offering. In the meantime, there's no market there, and, sadly, no one is going to follow AMD into unknown territory.
  • tacoslave
    the mobile space is what amd should be vying for its the only space that intel hasn't conquered and its going to be big in a couple years. Besides they have the graphics devision to blast anyone(except nvidia but without them it wouldnt be fun :P)out of the water. As hellwig said they should be concerned with making cash not following intel.
  • Yuka
    hellwigIn the meantime, there's no market there, and, sadly, no one is going to follow AMD into unknown territory.

    I agree with all, but that lil' statement. From the pure "arch" point, you CAN make CISC (x86 in this case) as light as RISC in power consumption and be close to it in performance IMO (not going into details here, but it can be done, I'm sure). But the thin red line of licensing might be on Intel's way of bringing down x86 into that territory. The closer u're on perf/watt to what ARM has now, the closer you are to their licenses, I'd say. Software wise, I'm clueless about which one is easier/cheaper to develop on; that is, thinking about ultra portables. So, there is a market IMO.

    This is going to be an interesting battle in the coming years, just like when 8086 won back then, lol.