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Friday, November 14, 2008

AMD: Netbooks? No thanks

  • In case you missed it, Advanced Micro Devices is passing on Netbooks. At least as Intel and its partners have defined the category.

  • AMD thinks that ultrathin 13-inch designs such as the MacBook Air address a more viable market than what it calls mininotebooks.
  • AMD thinks that ultrathin 13-inch designs such as the MacBook Air address a more viable market than what it calls mininotebooks.
  • (Credit: Apple)
  • In fact, a lot of the media outlets missed this point completely, insisting that AMD is going to go head-to-head with Intel on Netbook processors--apparently because it satisfies a journalistic boilerplate that AMD must, just must, have a direct response to Intel's Atom.

  • Just to set the record straight, here's what AMD Chief Executive Dirk Meyer said Thursday: "We're ignoring the Netbook phenomenon--just thinking about PC form factors above that form factor."

  • I think that is a pretty unambiguous statement. But if that wasn't clear enough, here's what Bahr Mahony, director of notebook product marketing at AMD said: "We're going to offer the Congo and Yukon platforms as an alternative (to processors and chipsets for Netbooks). There are a fair number of people that are not satisfied with the experience they're getting on these mininotebook platforms." (AMD uses the terms Netbook and mininotebook interchangeably.)

  • Mahony added that the dissatisfaction with Netbooks "has been exhibited by the high return rates that have been seen on these mininotebooks."

  • Asus or Acer may have something to say about that, but at the very least, this offers a fresh perspective on this possibly overhyped category.

  • AMD's strategy seems solid, in my opinion. Go for a segment that is bigger and better than Netbooks. The ultraportable category (the MacBook Air being the best example) is full of attractive but expensive designs. Why not work with PC makers to offer an ultrathin, ultralight, full-featured 13-inch notebook that is priced a lot less than $1,800? Why not $600 or $700?

  • In addition to the conventional criticism of Netbooks (small screens, tiny keyboards), an underrated fact is that many users eventually get the feeling that they're stuck with an underpowered laptop.

  • And being underpowered often hinges on lackluster graphics. In a conversation Thursday with Pat Moorhead, vice president of advanced marketing at AMD, he pointed to the graphics capability of AMD's upcoming Conesus CPU, which will use ATI's RS780M graphics: better graphics and better user experience overall.

  • The MacBook Air offers probably the best proof of this thinking. Apple (which, if you haven't noticed, doesn't offer a netbook), originally went with Intel's integrated graphics in the Air, but due to customer dissatisfaction with graphics performance, it added Nvidia GeForce 9400M graphics to its newest models.

  • Delivering a more powerful dual-core processor (such as AMD's Conesus) for this segment would also turn some heads and offer a more full-featured experience. Intel will be the first one to tell you that Atom is underpowered for many applications.

  • Are AMD customers clamoring for Netbooks like Intel customers are? "Frankly, I don't get the same answer when I talk to the customer base," AMD's Meyer said Thursday. Time will tell whether the CEO's strategy is right, but it offers a well-thought-out alternative to the Netbook as we know it. ....more read

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