A CLOSE READING of the conference call AMD made with analysts last night on its quarterly results reveals that while the firm has made progress in mobile chips for notebooks, as well as some headway in desktop processors.
Dirk Meyer, AMD's president, said the firm had cut its operating loss by half and had better cash flow. Mobile chip sales were up 43 per cent, but it's evident that most of those gains are in sales of notebooks from retailers, and not the commercial market.
And Meyer downplayed the significance of the quad core AMD Opteron " Barcelona" processor to the firm's sales. He said that tens of thousands of quad core CPUs shipped in the quarter, many more will ship in Q4.
Perhaps the AMD marketeers should not have overplayed the significance of Barcelona during 2007 - AMD has hyped that up over and over again during the year.
Chief beancounter Robert Rivet said that the consumer space is the "place we mostly play in. We continue to try to expand in the commercial space, but our notebook offering sits squarely in the consumer space".
Slightly later, CEO Hector Ruiz waded in to amplify information about the notebook market. Emerging markets are very strong, but there appears to be a shortage of plastic, LCD displays can be difficult to contain, and then there's the exploding batteries problem. Ruiz said the notebook vendors are concerned " over the fact that major fire in Japan where the battery factor pretty much got put out of business".
All of this has caused some uncertainty.
Hector also talked, or rather didn't talk about his asset lite "strategy", which the transcript amusingly describes as "acid life" with asset being described somewhere else as "accident". After proclaiming "acid life" earlier in the conference call, Ruiz then refused to say anything more about it, and would choose his own time to reveal the secrets. Perhaps the likes of Deutsche Bank and Stifel Nicolaus - why does Nicolaus need to be stifled? - are not members of the lodge where the secrets of "acid life" are disclosed to people with their trousers rolled up to the knee.
A number of the analysts asked about progress on moving towards 45 nanometre technology - that follows suggestions yesterday that AMD would not ramp properly until 2009.
Dirk, like the famous cobbler, is sticking to his last on yields, and on 65 nano and 45 nano tech. He said the basic silicon of yields are where AMD expected them to be, there's nothing wrong with AMD's process technology. "The issue is simply one of tuning the design to the technology so as to support a high volume ramp. And it is that particular issue that caused us to take a few extra weeks before we turn around the high volume ramp in the middle of this quarter," he said.
Meyer said AMD is already building 45 nanometre microprocessors, and he claimed that it will start its production ramp of 45 nanometre processors in the first half of next year. This is better than most people had thought, but perhaps needs to be viewed by previous AMD statements about how well it was doing with 65 nanometre migration.
Rivet said AMD is "back filling" people who didn't perform well with better employees. Back filling sounds painful and it probably is - these people are being dispensed with.
AMD appears to be cautiously optimistic about its ATI graphics card business and suggested it was increasing its market share. If so, this can only be good news for the firm. We don't know how happy AMD's add in board (AIB) customers are shipping graphics cards that only seem to be different by the garishness of the box and the addition or subtraction of additional cables and bundles.
It appears that AMD's advances in the graphics card business may be at the bread and butter level of the market - but that's where the money is.
AMD didn't really want to talk about other future R&D projects it has in the pipeline - it wants to save that stuff for a technical analyst day later in the year. µ
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