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Where Are the AMD Tablets?

By Ashraf Eassa – Mar 29, 2014 at 6:30PM

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AMD appears to be having limited success in garnering design wins for its tablet-oriented processors.

It seems that every year AMD (AMD 2.52%) makes a pretty large fuss about a next-generation mobile product, but year after year these products don't materialize in many shipping designs. Some argue that the same argument could be applied to larger PC chip rival Intel (INTC 2.70%), but there are numerous quality Windows-based tablets shipping with Intel silicon, even if Intel's Bay Trail on Android continues to be MIA. So a simple question that AMD investors should try to answer is: Where are all of the AMD tablets?

A trip to AMD's website: Trying to buy an AMD tablet
To see what kind of progress AMD has made in securing tablet designs, a trip to AMD's website is in order. Clicking on the "where to buy" button on AMD's tablet page reveals some interesting results. Of the 10 tablets available in total, the breakdown by chip is as follows:

  • AMD Dual-Core A4 Series: four tablets.
  • AMD Dual-Core Z-Series APU: three tablets.
  • AMD Quad-Core A6-Series: three tablets.

Of the four dual-core A4 based devices, three were 11.6-inch designs and one was a 13.3-inch detachable Windows 8 PC. Not a single one was a "tablet" in the sense of a traditional 10.1-inch or 9.7-inch design. Of the quad-core A6 based devices, all three were 13.3-inch designs from Hewlett-Packard. And naturally, the older Z-series APU based designs weren't anything to write home about, particularly as reviews panned both the performance and battery lives of products based on this chip (since the chip was unsuitable for thin and light tablets).

Compare that with Intel
Since AMD's chips are only targeted toward Windows right now, its only real competitor in the Windows tablet chip space is Intel, so a comparison is appropriate. Today there are a number of tablets with Bay Trail, Intel's latest 22-nanometer tablet-oriented chip, from many vendors, including:

  • ASUS.
  • Acer.
  • Fujitsu.
  • Dell.
  • Sharp.
  • Lenovo.
  • Toshiba.
  • Ramos.

These designs come in both 10.1-inch and 8-inch flavors, and these tablets have gotten pretty solid reviews for their performance and battery life. Of course, there are varying degrees of quality across the vendors (and Windows tablets aren't anywhere near as big of a market as Android and iOS tablets are), and you'll probably notice that these are relatively small names in the tablet market, but the breadth and quality of the offerings looks markedly higher than those powered by AMD.

Will Mullins do the trick?
When the Z-60 came out, it was "wait for Temash". Now that Temash is out, about, and garnering very little design win traction, AMD has been talking up its successor SoC for tablets code-named Mullins. Mullins apparently features an updated CPU core (probably with more aggressive Turbo) and at the system-on-a-chip level manages to bring power down.

This may be as a result of removing some of the I/Os that are PC-use only (similar to what Intel did with Bay Trail-T versus Bay Trail-M) as well as some architectural optimizations and enhancements. Only time will tell whether Mullins can finally find its way in competitive Windows-based tablets, but by then AMD will be contending with Intel's next-generation Cherry Trail

Foolish bottom line
While AMD has talked a big game, particularly around tablets, it simply has yet to deliver the goods in terms of the right product (AMD's current tablet offerings are missing several key IP blocks for tablets such as a dedicated image signal processor) at the right time in the right designs. And even if AMD sorts its product story out, the right chip is only just the beginning in this highly competitive, cutthroat industry. It is a necessary, but insufficient, condition to long-term business success.

Ashraf Eassa owns shares of Intel. The Motley Fool recommends and owns shares of and Intel. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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