AMD to Launch New Graphics Card Next Week, Predicts End of Core Wars

On Thursday night, AMD reported a mixed round of earnings.  It reported a non-GAAP quarterly profit of $108M USD widely beating the narrow $2M USD profit margin it posted a year before.  But its GAAP adjusted earnings (which take into account interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization) showed a net loss of $118M USD.  

Revenue increased 16 percent from $1.4B USD a year before to $1.62B USD, but fell slightly short of the average analyst prediction of $1.67B USD.  After years of struggles there was some signs, though, that the chipmaker may finally be preparing to turn the corner.  It reported a 33 percent year-to-year rise in graphics segment sales, showing off its gains over struggling competitor NVIDIA.

Perhaps most promising, as noted by AnandTech, AMD’s earnings call (audio) Thursday night contained an intriguing disclosure from CEO Dirk Meyer.  Mr. Meyer comments in the call, “We will be launching our second-generation DX11 graphics offerings next week.”

That “second-generation” is namely the AMD Radeon 6xxx DirectX 11 GPU series, whose specs reportedly leaked late last month.  The leaked specs sheet shows the redesigned GPU doubling many of the stats (memory bandwidth, Z/Stencil, and pixel rates) of the previous generation.

AMD is apparently very confident that its supply chain will be robust this time around.  Mr. Meyer promises that the cards will be available in time for the holidays and that it plans to ship “hundreds of thousands of units” before the end of the year.

The new series will be the first GPU series from AMD not to bear the ATI brand name, which AMD recently killed off.

If AMD can deliver on this promise, it should mean even more fierce competition for NVIDIA.  NVIDIA was finally able to take a breather, having at last moved its long-delayed Fermi Geforce 400 series out the door this spring, and seeing volumes pick up over the summer.

There was also plenty of interesting news from AMD in the CPU sector.  Mr. Meyer announced, “We look forward to building on this momentum when we begin shipping our first AMD Fusion Accelerated Processor Units later this quarter.”

AMD’s long-awaited Fusion processor could generate significant buzz among OEMs as it looks to offer a single affordable CPU/GPU solution in a singe-chip package.  AMD lags widely behind Intel in market share (AMD holds around 10-20 percent of the market, while Intel holds 80 to 90 percent), but it may post substantial gains by beating Intel to market with PC-ready system-on-a-chip (SoC) designs.  Intel is also preparing Fusion-like CPU/GPU SoC designs, but its GPU experience lags behind AMD’s.

In the earnings call Mr. Meyer, like his competitor Intel, also emphasized tablets would increasingly be a priority for his company.  He says AMD’s netbook-geared chips will show up in tablets over the next couple years and that once the market shows greater growth, AMD will “show up with a differentiated offering with great graphics and video technology.”

AMD CTO of servers Donald Newell also boldly predicted an end to the core wars, which AMD is currently deep in.  He likened the trend of chipmakers packing more cores on a chip to the clock speed wars of the nineties.  He comments to PC World/IDG News, “There will come an end to the core-count wars.  I won’t put an exact date on it, but I don’t myself expect to see 128 cores on a full-sized server die by the end of this decade.”

Mr. Newell says that thermal restrictions, as with with the clock speed wars, will be the key limiting factor.