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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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  • camylarde - Wednesday, January 12, 2011 - link

    As long as I cna afford a flat with enough space for a table and a rig, im gonna stick with PC's. Only then when the screen projectors are sufficiently hi-res and affordable (ie. similar price range of the panels) and my mobile may function as a computer then IM gonna ditch that rig and still plug mouse and keyboart.

    And only when 3d tactile interface is perfected then Im ditching keyboard and mouse. and start working (and playing) from my bed. If property values will still be in range to afford one own bed and a wall that is.
    Reply
  • Exelius - Wednesday, January 12, 2011 - link

    Look at the market situation: x86 is not going anywhere, but it's obviously not going to be a growth market in the near future, and ARM is. Companies like to grow, and AMD does not have a large presence in ARM. They have a big decision in the near future as to what direction they want to take the company: move into ARM and mobile processors, or specialize in the datacenter.

    And while AMD may have had a lot of successes on the engineering side, they've utterly failed on the marketing side over the last 2 years. The graveyard of Silicon Valley is littered with the corpses of companies who had great technology but couldn't sell it. That was ultimately Dirk's failing.

    If AMD goes the ARM route, they become yet another ARM licensee. If they go after the datacenter, they still have to compete with Intel. I'm guessing they're giving up on the mobile side of things, but this isn't a market they can afford to ignore if they want to remain independent. Their financial situation is not one where they can just go out and buy a large ARM licensee. Thus, I believe Ryan's assessment is correct. They're waiting for a white knight to swoop in with either an existing ARM operation or deep enough pockets to buy one.

    ATIC is as good a bet as any, but I wouldn't count out some of the larger companies out there. HP would not surprise me; they're not incredibly happy with Intel and they're big enough to actually fight them. HP isn't a great fit, but they're in acquisition mode and they're not super happy with Intel.
    Reply
  • jconan - Thursday, January 13, 2011 - link

    Among AMD's board of directors
    Dr. W. Michael Barnes * Financial Expert
    John E. Caldwell * Financial Expert
    Bruce Claflin
    Craig A. Conway
    Nicholas M. Donofrio *
    H. Paulett Eberhart *
    Robert B. Palmer * Financial Expert
    Waleed Ahmed Al Mokarrab Al Muhairi

    Only Nick and Robert are from companies with micro design background. With some speculation there probably is some deal going on with the board of directors. AMD could hire Pat Gelsinger from EMC, he's a former Intel with experience.
    Reply
  • Libra4US - Thursday, January 13, 2011 - link

    Everyting is relative! Relative to Intel and Nvidia.

    I am a long-time AMD supporter. Let see, even under Dirk's management:

    Engineering
    It is at most about the same to two competitors, definitely not better if not worse.
    The engineering results is from the wqhole engineering team, not a single person.
    OK performance.

    Business
    Just announcing that AMD has good products is a typical engineering style. How much have they been translated to income?
    Poor performance!

    Marketing
    Just keep saying how great is the APU and ask users stay tune. Has AMD demostrated to users and let them EASILY see how great it is. Stop using the technical terms and saying that the laest standard is supported ... Most users are not interested in those but just want to EASILY see truely how great it is. What has AMD done? Just the terms VISION, FUSION, ...
    Poor, poor performance!!

    So be objective. Overall, has Dirk done a good job? Yes, on if compared to Hector.

    This is why a capable engineering person may not be capable anymore once got promoted to a higher position that reqiues the various capabilities in a lot more areas!!!
    Reply
  • Libra4US - Thursday, January 13, 2011 - link

    In addition, having sound products, AMD need to have a CEO who has great relationships with reputable system companies for having more reputable system companies sell systems that use its sound products!!! Reply
  • msroadkill612 - Tuesday, January 25, 2011 - link

    100 design wins & 1.3million fusion chips since november isnt bad. Reply
  • martixy - Sunday, January 16, 2011 - link

    Meh... Corporations are one of the stupidest inventions in mankind's history!
    I wish there was some other way or form of organization that didn't involve making gazzilions of money for a few individuals, but instead worked for the technological advancement of millions of people.
    Reply

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