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Right before its fourth-quarter report, chip designer Advanced Micro Devices (NYSE: AMD ) launched an embedded version of its long-awaited Fusion architecture. Billed as a challenger to Intel (Nasdaq: INTC ) Atom chips, and perhaps even mobile dominator ARM Holdings (Nasdaq: ARMH ) solutions, does the eBrazos have what it takes to be a difference-maker?
AMD calls the embedded G-Series processor line "the world's first and only" integrated processor-plus-graphics solution. The raw processing power of a full-fledged x86 chip, combined with a modern graphics core and accelerated video-stream decoding, makes the new chips instant contenders for media centers and other set-top boxes.
Furthermore, the processors are designed to run on no more than nine to 18 watts of electric power, depending on the exact model -- not quite skimpy enough to qualify the chip for smartphone use, but potentially a great solution for media-centric tablets, and absolutely a candidate for most ultraportable notebooks.
Forgive me for flogging a deceased equine here, but wasn't this the exact market that ex-CEO Dirk Meyer got fired for ignoring? AMD's board obviously knew that these chips were coming down the turnpike in short order. Meyer may not exactly have focused on mobile computing, but AMD under his leadership was clearly making moves in that direction anyhow.
And that's quite beside the real point: Classical server and desktop chips tend to command wider profit margins, which is an important consideration for the very cost-sensitive business model AMD runs. Chasing big revenue numbers at the cost of lower profits doesn't seem like a sensible strategy for AMD, yet that's what the board wants.
The embedded Fusion chips come with a rather bland slate of launch partners; the biggest brands on deck are Fujitsu and Wyse. But Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT ) already used AMD embedded chips to showcase its Surface multitouch computing platform. Intel's latest-and-greatest embedded offering wasn't deemed robust enough to handle that processing-intensive application, giving AMD a nice selling-point feather in its cap
I'd love to hear some new design wins for this new product line baked into tonight's earnings report, along with an attempt to clarify the CEO-booting mess. I'm currently a somewhat skeptical AMD shareholder, desperate for some tangible good news. eBrazos could be a piece of that puzzle, but AMD still needs to prove it.
Add AMD to your watchlist if you haven't already, then discuss the business implications of these embedded processors in the comments below.