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AMD Already Missed the MID Boat

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OK, so AMD refuses to comment on rumors that it plans to introduce a low-power chip aimed at the mobile Internet device market, where it would compete with Intel’s Atom chipset and offerings from several other rivals. And it refuses to claim a block diagram floated by as its plans for such a chip.

I was kind of hoping AMD might stay out of this MID market opportunity and focus on its core CPU business and getting its promising graphics processor and CPU platform off the ground instead of chasing Intel, Nvidia, Via, Qualcomm and Texas Instruments and their hopes for a pocket PC market. Plus, AMD’s been here and done that — back in 2002, when it purchased Alchemy Semiconductor and its line of MIPS-based, low-power personal device chips. That deal was a response to Intel’s Xscale assault, and AMD turned around and sold the Alchemy line in 2005.

AMD did, however, keep the low-power x86 chips for the embedded and personal device market that it purchased from National Semiconductor in 2003. The x86 architecture was more familiar to AMD’s existing chips, and the Geode line is still used in low-power devices, but isn’t very fast and wouldn’t be competitive for the MID opportunity.

It’s surprising that AMD doesn’t have anything better on offer already. Especially given AMD CEO Hector Ruiz’s 50×15 project, which aims to get computers and broadband to half of the population by 2015. An AMD-designed, low-power, high-performance chip would have been perfect for the project and then later for the MID market. However, the One Laptop Per Child laptops AMD is using for the project use a Geode processor. If this diagram represents AMD’s answer to Intel and the gang, why the heck has it waited so long? They had a perfect market for an MID chip and they let it pass them by. If anything, AMD could have sacrificed short-term profits for large volumes if it had to. Its main rival isn’t shy about doing that.

8 Responses to “AMD Already Missed the MID Boat”

  1. True, but who said MIDs would be third devices? I think it’s more likely that mobile voice service becomes just another app on a MID, with wireless data networks and wired/wireless microphones providing alternate ways of accessing that voice functionality. There is as much or more demand for entertainment and data on the go as there is for voice service on the go. What has held everything but voice back is that the hardware was not capable enough. It is now starting to get there.

  2. Sorry for the badly timed analogy – I hope for the best for the typhoon victims and their families.

    Ajay – I’m tempted to believe in MIDs, too. The iPhone is one, really, but it is successful because it is also a phone. Third devices are fun at first, but they don’t get packed or carried… I/O compromises frustrate users… people eventually stop keeping them charged… and then they just disappear.

  3. I disagree, Paul. I have been as skeptical about mobile as anybody but that’s because I’ve long been waiting for the displays to get to the 5-7″ range, which is starting to happen now with the MIDs. All the nonsense, that the mobile acolytes constantly trumpet, about mobile customers carrying a billion computers in their hands has proven to be just that. However, once the 5-7″ display form factor is feasible, that’s when mobile devices actually become usable for entertainment and information. Combine that with the relatively fast wireless data networks that are being deployed and the MID market will be big, everybody knows that. The only question is what enabling technologies we’ll be able to pack in there to really make MIDs a hit: speech recognition, new character input technologies, and screen projection are some possibilities.

  4. The MID market is like a Philippine ferry boat. Around 850 people will climb aboard, then it will sink long before it reaches its destination, taking all hands with it.