Change is afoot at Advanced Micro Devices (NYSE: AMD ) .
One of the interesting developments at AMD's Financial Analyst Day last week were the hints that the company may become a switch-hitter and expand beyond its traditional x86 architecture roots, which would help it step out from Intel's (Nasdaq: INTC ) shadow.
AMD discussed the prospect of integrating third-party IP into its chips, which would make it look more like chip players such as Qualcomm, for example. That could take form in directly licensing designs from ARM Holdings (Nasdaq: ARMH ) or MIPS Technologies (Nasdaq: MIPS ) , or to a lesser extent incorporating bits and pieces of third-party technology.
ARM was mentioned specifically, but not in the form of any major official announcements. When asked by Wired, AMD CTO Mark Papermaster replied, "The answer is not no." Didn't he ever learn in grade school that double negatives are a grammatical no-no? On the other hand, Papermaster's response is short of a "yes," too.
The chipmaker will decidedly not be getting into the smartphone scene, since that area is already filled to the brim with ARM chips, many of which happen to be Qualcomm Snapdragons. Instead, it will be focusing on the data center market. ARM has already made a step into servers with its licensee Calxeda and Hewlett-Packard, although ARM CEO Warren East said 2014 is when ARM hopes to make a dent in the vast server market.
AMD has a solid presence in data centers, so the very possible likelihood that it will enlist in the ARMy would be a healthy win for the British chip designer. Linley Group senior microprocessor analyst Kevin Krewell thinks ARM would ask more from AMD, likely in the form of cross licensing IP. A potential deal would be particularly significant, considering that AMD explicitly said it was not pursuing an ARM license less than a year ago, so AMD signing up would be a distinct change of heart.
ARM already has a legion of backers, and it doesn't look like it's going to stop inking more licensees anytime soon.
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