At the start of 2010, Advanced Micro Devices (NYSE: AMD ) was still in pretty dire straits.
The long-awaited Fusion architecture was still a distant dream, at least for system builders and consumers. The manufacturing arm spun off as Globalfoundries hung like a lead albatross around AMD's neck and balance sheet, despite a recent cash infusion from the legal department of Intel (Nasdaq: INTC ) and further assistance from AMD's Arabian investors/friends.
The company was up to its neck in debt and alligators, with lots to prove and not many weapons at its disposal. Even the graphics segment was under attack from an NVIDIA (Nasdaq: NVDA ) more burdened with manufacturing shortages than design misses.
Here we are, 52 weeks later. How much has AMD's picture changed?
For one, AMD has gained the high ground in the graphics wars, while Intel is coming on strong with graphics features in the minty-fresh Sandy Bridge processor line that should soon see competition from more well-endowed graphics performance on Fusion products.
In the main processor market, Intel is still unquestionably the king of raw performance, though AMD puts up its dukes for a spirited fight when you also consider bang-for-the-buck and power efficiency vectors. The David and Goliath battle has been a stalemate all year, according to the industry analysts at iSuppli, setting the stage for a very interesting 2011 in the processor industry.
Intel is branching out into mobile computing in a big way, while AMD is finally getting those Fusion chips onto store shelves and potentially reinventing what a personal computer or corporate server can do. AMD CEO Dirk Meyer has proven his mettle in a way that predecessor Hector Ruiz never could, so Intel now has a worthy adversary on its hands.
In October, I explained why AMD is worth about $10 per share, a price it rarely approached in 2010. I put my money where my mouth is this week and bought a few shares with my own money. While $10 is still the absolute minimum price at which I would sell, I'm hoping and half-expecting Fusion to be a game-changer beyond analyst estimates and my own conservative projections, in which case I'd hang onto those shares all 2011 long -- and beyond.
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