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What a Day: AMD's CEO Dirk Meyer Resigns

by Anand Lal Shimpi on 1/10/2011 10:26 PM EST
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67 Comments

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  • Sahrin - Monday, January 10, 2011 - link

    Given the board's willingness to fire Dirk, I have to agree with Ryan's suspicion that there is "more to it" - after all this is the same board that stuck with Hector "Fraudrigo" Ruiz for waaaay too long while he ran the company into the ground versus Conroe.

    That said, I think you're overestimating the willingness of the House Committee on Commerce to allow this deal to go down. One of the reasons that AMD's voting interest in GF is still so powerful is to appease the "no export" crowd on the right side of the capitol (and don't get me wrong, there are realistic concerns about sending cutting-edge process technology and control thereof to Dubai). Look what happened with Dubai World, and that was just a port operator.

    I'm not convinced that there is "more to it" though. You have to admit that while execution under Dirk has been much improved versus Hector, it's nowhere near the level of nVidia or Intel. Another angle is that AMD is now flush with cash, and the board is unimpressed with the ROI achieved since the company has become more liquid (and that constraint has been lifted). They're seeing a lot of upside in the GF investment (remember, AMD still owns a good chunk of GF) - ironically AMD is the weak link in AMD's portfolio (ATI is the strong piece of the design house).

    Still, I think the announcement of "wanting to be more agressive" makes sense. Dirk was a very good CEO, but if AMD wants to be anything more than Intel's second banana for the next 10 years, they're going to need to step it up - and the one thing that Dirk has not been is agressive.
    Reply
  • vol7ron - Tuesday, January 11, 2011 - link

    What? Just because you have $$, doesnt mean you can create a miracle over night. Reply
  • Tormeh - Tuesday, January 11, 2011 - link

    I think that's exactly what it means. Reply
  • taltamir - Wednesday, January 12, 2011 - link

    or rather, exactly what they BELIEVE it should mean.

    Dirk took a failing company, made it profitable and have cash. That sounds like a keeper. He tells them that he can't pull a miracle out of his ass and they fire him... To be replaced by someone like hector ruin who will promise them the sky and deliver the company unto its deathbed.

    Trying to sale to the Government of Abu Dhabi (ATIC) is exactly the kind of thing I'd expect from them (what with GloFo), and is possibly what they WANT to happen, but that has to get the approval of the US government, and its not necessary going to happen.
    Reply
  • Mishera - Saturday, January 15, 2011 - link

    Don't Know where you guys got the idea that Amd has cash. Look at the balance sheet. Amd has a lot of notes due over the next couple of years and from what it looks like will be in a relatively tight financial position. Amd has cut a lot of it's research investment too which makes the bobcat that much more impressive

    I'm inclined to believe that investors are either upset about the lack of an attempt in the cellphone/tablet market or they want to sell the company, which would make sense as the first statements said he didn't "generate enough return to investors".
    Reply
  • vol7ron - Tuesday, January 18, 2011 - link

    Hmmm I'll come back and post after his statement regarding the Board of Directors and act like I had more intuition about what this article said.

    ... so it came to be that BoD wants to move the company towards more of the mobile market, which Dirk didn't seem to be doing enough of. Sigh

    BTW AMD has notes, but the huge Intel settlement helped.
    Reply
  • bah12 - Tuesday, January 11, 2011 - link

    Correct me if I'm wrong but wasn't there specific clauses in the Intel/AMD settlement that prevented the transfer of the x86 cross license in the event of a buyout. Without that license AMD becomes far less attractive IMO.

    Although I agree that something more is going on, I don't know that a buyout is it. Of course my memory is not as sharp as it used to be so I could be wrong.
    Reply
  • JGabriel - Tuesday, February 15, 2011 - link


    Not only that, but I'm not sure ATIC would be a potential buyer for AMD. Ryan's right that AMD's Board may hope for ATIC as their big payday, but what's in it for ATIC?

    ATIC may well be better off staying out of the chip design / architecture business, so they can at least maintain the illiusion of fab neutrality for their other clients. Owning both a chip designer and a set of fabs won't be very reassuring to that chip designer's competitors.
    Reply
  • Sabresiberian - Tuesday, January 11, 2011 - link

    Not sure what an "aggressive" CEO looks like, but Dirk seems to have done a lot in 2 years.

    ;)
    Reply
  • sprockkets - Monday, January 10, 2011 - link

    Typical shareholders. Dirk was such a good long time AMD employee. But as it stands, what is left anyhow? They spun off the division that made the graphics in ARM devices some time ago, and the writing is on the wall for x86 based devices. Reply
  • Sahrin - Monday, January 10, 2011 - link

    Last I read, x86 represents 80% of all logic dollars. ARM shares the 20% with everyone else - including Power, nVidia, etc. Saying the "writing is on the wall" for x86 is like saying the "writing is on the wall" for PC's. Assuming that the writing is "we're making billions in profits every year selling more computers than our competition has - in their entire history, combined." Reply
  • sprockkets - Monday, January 10, 2011 - link

    That's today. Seriously, do you need the next version of Intel's CPU? With mobile devices becoming powerful enough to do what you want, and the ipad selling like crazy, do you really think that desktop pcs are going to be relevant anymore?

    Everyone says that x86 will still be made, but seriously, the consumer market is changing rapidly. At least GF has their future set if they start fabbing ARM CPUs for people.
    Reply
  • vol7ron - Tuesday, January 11, 2011 - link

    When heat and power are a concern, yes. Gaming and high-performing workstations will still be desktop driven for atleast a decade Reply
  • sprockkets - Tuesday, January 11, 2011 - link

    Which accounts for what % of the market? Reply
  • erple2 - Tuesday, January 11, 2011 - link

    If you believe Sahrin's numbers, is about 80% of the logic dollars of the market. Which sounds to me like where you want to throw some SERIOUS resources.

    Apple (and by extension its shareholders) would LOVE to be at that point.

    Imagine, if your one little gizmo that's a tiny percentage of the overall market raked in 80% of the total profits of the whole market?
    Reply
  • softdrinkviking - Tuesday, January 11, 2011 - link

    i agree with you on that, but what percentage of PCs are "gaming and high performance?"

    once the big companies see that the big volume profits are being made in the smartphone/ultramobile market, the monetary incentive for building on x86 erodes.

    a big obsticle to replacing x86 has always been the absence of alternative productivity software, or its proliferation, but now there are plenty of strong options, and between ARM and the Google ecosytem, they have become more realistic,
    We even have Microsoft talking about writing for ARM, and if that isn't enough, there is cloud computing and virtual machines to run old x86 programs on different architechtures,

    i understand that it still seems like a long, long road to replacing x86, but it's totally possible. if things continue the way they are going, with people turning more and more to ultraportable solutions, there is no reason to doubt that ARM can be the defacto achitecture.
    of course, that's all only if things continue the way they are going, for all i know, people could all just say "to hell with smartphones" and that would be the end of it, but i'm pretty hooked on the convenience myself.
    Reply
  • mgambrell - Tuesday, January 11, 2011 - link

    no matter how super convenient your mobile devices are, youll always need to turn to a pc to get real work done. Reply
  • sprockkets - Tuesday, January 11, 2011 - link

    Even the current arch of ARM is very powerful. With Win8 supporting ARM it's only a matter of time.

    If stuff like the Atrix catch on, expect form factor issues to be out of the way as well.
    Reply
  • mutarasector - Friday, January 14, 2011 - link

    Smartphones & ultra low power portable mobile computing will never rival the heavy lifting capacity of desktops, period. Its simple physics: one will always being able to cram more raw computing power in a desktop form factor (by an order of magnitude no less) that simply cannot be replaced/superceded by mobile devices.

    If anything, mobile and stationary computing will result in more of a symbiotic relationship, and 'vs' comparisons are a false dichotomy..

    Both are here to stay.
    Reply
  • GotThumbs - Tuesday, January 11, 2011 - link

    Every try encoding a video using ARM or an IPAD? I see a move to central servers for each household...and interfacing with them using tablets, smart phones, or networked devices like your TV. Eventually your appliences will network with your server which will be the brains of your home. You will always need at least one powerful system in each house, but most users tend to need very little in daily life. Reply
  • 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
  • Taft12 - Tuesday, January 11, 2011 - link

    Fewer and fewer x86 servers now that we are in the multi-core and virtualization era. Reply
  • sviola - Tuesday, January 11, 2011 - link

    I think he was talking about profit. While ARM may be in a lot more devices, an arm cpu sells for $10, while a x86, sells for $100. So, probably the x86 has a larger part of the profit market. Reply
  • 6553321 - Tuesday, January 11, 2011 - link

    > we're making billions in profits every year

    This is correct. They are making a lot of profit and more than their competitors ever have.

    > selling more computers than our competition has - in their entire history

    This is absolutely incorrect. In fact it is just the opposite. ARM sells more chips in a year than Intel has ever sold.
    Reply
  • JHBoricua - Wednesday, February 09, 2011 - link

    >This is absolutely incorrect. In fact it is just the opposite. ARM sells more chips in a year than Intel has ever sold.

    The correct statement is that there are more ARM based processors shipped in a year vs. x86 processors.

    ARM doesn't manufacture or sells CPUs. They sell licenses for their design and collect royalties.
    Reply
  • Stuka87 - Monday, January 10, 2011 - link

    Both a surprise and not at the same time. I personally think he was doing a good job. He had certainly done more right than wrong in my opinion. However, Ryan makes a good point.

    Although I think the boards excuse of not growing enough seems like a cop-out. You can't simply grow just by saying "lets grow". The fact that he took the company from losing fist fulls of money to making a profit shows the company had significant amounts of growth from a monetary point of view. Although I understand some of that came from cost cutting.

    But anyway, I hope this isn't in a bid to sell the company just so a few people can make some money. As I am not sure its in the best interest of the company itself (ignoring the wants of the investors to just make money).
    Reply
  • MeanBruce - Monday, January 10, 2011 - link

    Personally, I can't wait until the movie comes out! Reply
  • The Crying Man - Monday, January 10, 2011 - link

    They could call it x86'd Reply
  • AmdInside - Monday, January 10, 2011 - link

    Dirk Bulldozed by BoD? Reply
  • MeanBruce - Tuesday, January 11, 2011 - link

    That's Hilariuos! Reply
  • Mr Perfect - Tuesday, January 11, 2011 - link

    Nice! Your one of those clever morning people, aren't you? Reply
  • Osssua - Tuesday, January 11, 2011 - link

    Mmm ... I am curious that you guys don't connect the Intel/Nvidia deal with the firing of Dirk. This is obviously something not planned. If you want another CEO you find it first, then you fire the current CEO. You don't leave the company with an interim CEO, no plan, and the scared shareholders elbowing each other to press the button "Sell stock". I would assume that the Board got pissed that $1.5B goes the way to Nvidia, instead of, why not, ATI. Reply
  • InternetGeek - Tuesday, January 11, 2011 - link

    That's kind of a long shot but it makes sense if Intel's Tick-Tock sauce rubs on nVidia then ATI is in for a beating. Reply
  • vol7ron - Tuesday, January 11, 2011 - link

    FYI: NVIDIA != ATI Reply
  • melgross - Tuesday, January 11, 2011 - link

    AMD already said why they fired him this way. The speculation surrounding them looking for a new COE would have swirled around, setting up too many rumors. This way, it's more straightforward.

    But then, the board of AMD has always been a bunch of incompetent fools. Getting rid of him was just another stupid move on their part. If they really think that this is going to change anything, they're mistaken.
    Reply
  • vol7ron - Tuesday, January 11, 2011 - link

    Ryan, ATIC are valid conjectures. What about health concerns?

    I'd like to give him 2 more years just to see what'd happen.
    Reply
  • iwod - Tuesday, January 11, 2011 - link

    From the first day ATIC make a significant investment into AMD, it was bound to somehow control AMD.

    The money from ATIC, comes from Government, then from Oil. And who uses the most oil? Americans.

    I dont think AMD will be a simple outsold to ATIC, but through a connection of GF buying back AMD, ATIC further invest in AMD, and other third party owning AMD shares to take control of them.
    Reply
  • Phoenixlight - Tuesday, January 11, 2011 - link

    I don't know enough about what the Dirk's done for AMD to make a valid assessment of the situation but AMD really needs to market itself better, the general public need to know who they are. Reply
  • msroadkill612 - Tuesday, January 25, 2011 - link

    Which dirk did. all he said made good sense, unlike the drivel which came from the marketing dead wood he replaced.

    It did seem a shame not to hold the TV and hand held divisions, but AMD was desperate.

    These BOD guys (who are they anyway) are presumably the same ones who thought hector was a great guy for so long, and still gave him a great job at GF until he got caught blabbing secrets to an inside trading bimbo.

    All very strange.
    Reply
  • ATOmega - Tuesday, January 11, 2011 - link

    This sounds like AMD has decided to stop improving their product and want to switch over to a purely marketing-focused strategy. Typical 21st century shareholder-driven decision making. It's one thing to drag a company out of it's deathbed and make it profitable. But that's not enough, it has to be an obscene profit. Investors are gluttons to the detriment of even that which they profit off of.

    A very premature decision and could quite potentially signal the demise of the company as we know it. Which is very unfortunate. For those of us who like Intel, we need AMD. Given how well he's done for AMD, the only explanation for his departure is greed.
    Reply
  • zodiacfml - Tuesday, January 11, 2011 - link

    same here..
    AMD could not have any better. I was wrong, thinking that buying ATI was suicidal just to integrate a gpu.

    weak AMD=no Sandy Bridge
    Reply
  • Jamahl - Tuesday, January 11, 2011 - link

    is buying AMD. Reply
  • Matthew Barclay - Tuesday, January 11, 2011 - link

    I think some sort of stock manipulation is going on. They may want a dip in their value before announcing positive results for Q1 later in the month. Certainly they knew how this action would impact their stock price. Maybe some investors are making a mint on this. Reply
  • piesquared - Tuesday, January 11, 2011 - link

    amazing anand, you come out of the woodworks and write an AMD story. So it seems you have no problems writing about AMD when it's negative, but crickets chirping about fusion... of course you found somebody else to write a blurb about fusion at CES, but intel didn't want you to be associated with it? fraud. i guess that new ex-intel executive working here is working out just right for intel. fraud. Reply
  • formulav8 - Tuesday, January 11, 2011 - link

    Get over it already.

    Anyways, as a AMD stock holder this is bad news. I really think Dirk was the best man AMD had right now.

    You know the biggest reason with his leaving is greed. I can't stand greed at all. It causes so many problems.....
    Reply
  • AnandThenMan - Tuesday, January 11, 2011 - link

    piesquared makes an extremely valid point. This site is dumb, deaf and blind on purpose when it comes to talking about AMD. Unless it involved a major launch which they can't ignore, or it's negative.

    Anandtech LOVES Intel and takes great glee in writing about them, like a fan of their favorite sports team. It's painfully obvious, but has no place on a site that is supposed to be an unbiased source of information.
    Reply
  • silverblue - Wednesday, January 12, 2011 - link

    If I remember correctly, Anand praised the Phenom II as "a true return to competition".

    Ah, here we are...

    http://www.anandtech.com/show/2702

    I'd say that was a rather balanced review.
    Reply
  • Kimmono - Wednesday, January 12, 2011 - link

    When Anand start using software in the tests that are truly multi threaded, then the benchmarks will be a bit more realistic.

    Also, who only use one program at a time? This is not picked up by the tests.
    Reply
  • silverblue - Wednesday, January 12, 2011 - link

    That's a good point, however we're still a way off having properly multithreaded software being the norm so what could they do besides design their own multithreaded test?

    Your idea could give more weight to AMD's idea of physical cores being the better option, though I'm not sure how much it would matter in the end. It might end up extolling the virtues of Intel's Hyperthreading approach.
    Reply
  • ash9 - Tuesday, January 11, 2011 - link


    If things were as bad as knee-jerk perception, I would have thought Apple to have made its decision months ago.

    In the kingdome of blind the one ey'd man is king.
    [1640 G. Herbert Outlandish Proverbs no. 469]

    As for Dirk Meyer, I refer to these 3 articles and ask; what did Acer (Microsoft) see that Meyer didnt? And why wasnt it working at CES? Dammit!

    http://news.cnet.com/8301-13924_3-20019680-64.html

    http://www.gottabemobile.com/2010/11/23/acer-annou...

    http://www.electronista.com/articles/10/12/29/braz...

    asH
    Reply
  • mAxius - Tuesday, January 11, 2011 - link

    i think what happened is the board saw nvidia competing in the low power arm soc market. The board probability feels that it is a market that amd should be paying more attention to that segment either with an arm cpu or an x86 cpu. X86 is still too power hungry at this time bobcat helps a ton though, i feel that amd will be getting an arm license and possibility purchasing an arm design firm soon. Reply
  • 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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