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I don’t usually pay much attention to corporate executives and the hirings, firings and resignations thereof. It’s not that executives are unimportant, it’s that they’re not exactly what I’m passionate about. While I never pass up an opportunity to meet with an exec, I generally walk away more impressed after a conversation with a Fellow.

 

Today’s resignation of AMD’s former CEO Dirk Meyer seemed like reason to pay attention. It wasn’t a scandal or anything vile that led up to the resignation, just a good old fashioned differing of opinion. To quote AMD’s press release:

”However, the Board believes we have the opportunity to create increased shareholder value over time. This will require the company to have significant growth, establish market leadership and generate superior financial returns. We believe a change in leadership at this time will accelerate the company’s ability to accomplish these objectives.”

The implication being that Dirk’s plan for AMD wouldn’t result in significant growth, establish market leadership and generate superior financial returns. The question is what was Dirk’s plan and what direction does AMD’s Board of Directors believe it should be headed in instead?

Dirk Meyer has been nothing but good for AMD since he took control in 2008. As AMD points out Dirk successfully spun off Global Foundries (the industry as a whole may owe him thanks for that as it seems to be gearing up to be a major player in the future of chip manufacturing). In doing so Dirk also floated a sinking ship—AMD managed a return to profitability under his watch. We’re also on the cusp of AMD’s most active year ever. Brazos just launched and we’ll get both Llano and Bulldozer before the year is out. When was the last time AMD launched three different architectures in a 12 month period? Never, that’s when.

So what wasn’t Dirk prepared to do? AMD still doesn’t have a public ultra mobile (read: smartphone) strategy, but would that be enough to resign over? I don’t have any reason to believe that Bobcat wouldn’t eventually be folded into a smartphone SoC. AMD typically lets Intel open up a new market and then follows it in as an alternative. I suspect it’s a safer bet to let Intel duke it out with ARM for control of the smartphone market before deciding to enter. Based on the outcome there, AMD could choose to enter under either the x86 or ARM banners.

I was talking to Ryan Smith earlier tonight when the news broke and he mentioned something that caught my interest:

“Mark my words, at some point they're going to try to sell the company to ATIC. Let ATIC deal with fighting Intel, and the board/investors can pocket a nice profit. Certainly if you were trying to sell, you'd sack Dirk. He doesn't seem like the kind of guy that would let them do it.”

This is just one of the many reasons I love working with Ryan—he always looks at things at an angle I hadn’t previously considered. ATIC, the company funding Global Foundries, would be a good suitor for AMD. It has the resources to fund a fight with Intel as we’ve already seen from Global Foundries...oh, and it also happens to own a number of microprocessor fabs that conveniently are very well suited to manufacturing AMD microprocessors.

Obviously everything here is pure speculation. While Dirk saved AMD from extinction, the press release seems to indicate he wouldn’t be the right guy to take AMD to the point of making tons of money. With Intel executing as well as it has been, I’m not sure if a change in CEO will be enough to fix that. AMD needs an influx of revenue to fund the sort of projects it needs in order to gain significant market share. 

To be honest, I don’t know Dirk personally and I don’t know why he’d choose to part ways with AMD. Changes like this are usually the result of something significant however. We’ll probably find out the answer in the next 24 months.

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  • sprockkets - Tuesday, January 11, 2011 - link

    the only thing preventing it from happening is an app. Dual core 1.2ghz processors won't beat the desktop, but again, what about in 5 years?

    What then when Win8 arm arrives?
    Reply
  • mutarasector - Friday, January 14, 2011 - link

    Good points. I see the very same thing. Not only will we see central home servers, but it will even be affordable for home users to *redundant* home servers, possibly for different purposes. Reply
  • mutarasector - Friday, January 14, 2011 - link

    Desktop PCs, be it mid towers, mini towers, or SFF systems will remain relevant for a long time because there will always be a need for content creation capable systems that mobile systems will just not be able to do (at least not as easily and effectively, nor anytime soon). Mobile computing outside of laptops/notebooks (while mobile and powerful today) are still not ideal workstations, nor as cost effective, from a purchase/maintenance perspective. Furthermore, power efficiencies and 'greenness' of mobile technologies can be incorporated back into desktops in a more cost effective and/or 'green' manner.

    As for AMD's strategy particularly with Bobcat, the only real concern I have is that these being BGA are going to make them more expensive to replace from a Windows licensing concern. I wouldn't be as comfortable slapping OEM copies of Windows on these things if for ome reason the CPU dies on one of the mobos that have Zacates soldered on.
    Reply
  • bjacobson - Tuesday, January 11, 2011 - link

    half the smartphones have HDMI out, later this year we're getting ones with dual cores, next year we'll have faster dual cores and >1GB of ram.

    Plug in the HDMI to your LCD, and use a bluetooth keyboard and mouse hey presto you don't need your desktop anymore unless you're a gamer.
    Reply
  • cjb110 - Tuesday, January 11, 2011 - link

    or if your one of the guys having to write apps for your 'smart' phone, or design the hardware that you've plugged your hdmi into or create the fancy animations and effects you see in the apps or etc

    So everyone needs powerful desktop pc's to exist, so that they can enjoy their fancy apps on their smartphones.
    Reply
  • Taft12 - Tuesday, January 11, 2011 - link

    Powerful desktops need to exist, yes, but there don't need to be very many of them (comparatively) Reply
  • Mr Perfect - Tuesday, January 11, 2011 - link

    That could work. The main drawback to smartphones being your only device is the interface, at least for me. A touch screen the size of an index card can't be your screen slash keyboard slash mouse for very long without it holding you back. When phones have wireless HDMI, keyboards and mice they could be taken seriously as the main device.

    Or, said another way, your PC could be disconnected from all the peripherals and carried around in your pocket.
    Reply
  • Shadowmaster625 - Tuesday, January 11, 2011 - link

    Smartphones are significantly more expensive for what you get. Portability isnt important enough to justify the price premium for most people, especially as the fantasy wealth bubble continues to deflate. Reply
  • michael2k - Tuesday, January 11, 2011 - link

    I think you have it backwards; ARM has powered millions more computers than Intel ever has, and as it becomes more capable threatens to displace them in PCs, too.
    As an example, over 300 million ARM powered Gameboys and DSes have been sold; likewise over 260 million ARM powered iPods have been sold.

    Nokia alone sells over 110m ARM powered phones every quarter, over 26m smartphones.

    The writing is on the wall; that profit you mention looks very tempting to the ARM powered widget makers who can hit 50% of the performance for 10% of the cost and 300% of the battery life.
    Reply
  • cfaalm - Tuesday, January 11, 2011 - link

    ARM devices relying on how many x86 servers? Reply

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