AMD more upbeat about chances in tablet market

AMD executives make more positive comments about tablets, stepping away from cautious statements made by former CEO Dirk Meyer.

Advanced Micro Devices executives made relatively upbeat statements about tablets and seemed to go beyond previous comments by former CEO Dirk Meyer, who was ousted earlier this month.

AMD posted fourth-quarter earnings today of 14 cents a share (non-GAAP basis), higher than the 11 cents per share that analysts had expected. Net income fell to $375 million, or 50 cents a share, from a year earlier when it reported net income of $1.18 billion, or $1.52 a share. Revenue was $1.65 billion, flat compared with the previous year.

A sore point for AMD was servers. Interim CEO Thomas Seifert pulled no punches when talking about server market struggles. "We were disappointed with our performance in that segment in the fourth quarter. This is one of the areas where we see significant room for improvement," he said during the company's earnings conference call this afternoon.

That was not the hottest topic for discussion, however, during the call. A number of questions posed by analysts centered on the tablet market. Rick Bergman, senior vice president and general manager at AMD, said the chip supplier sees opportunities for its new "Brazos" processor design, which is being used today in small laptops and Netbooks from companies like Hewlett-Packard and Sony. That's a departure from the vision of Meyer, who had downplayed the market.

"I've been in the PC industry 20 plus years and we've really struggled to get into the living room, and it's clear that tablets are finding their way into the living room," Bergman said.

He continued. "As consumers start to utilize these tablets, they start to demand a better end-user experience, which invariably means processing power, incredible graphics, incredible video," he said, referring to AMD's strengths. "And already we're seeing a number of design win opportunities for us with Brazos today, and certainly as we develop new products in that category, we'll account for those new trends and market opportunities."

Seifert chimed in, too. "Look at the product roadmap and what we have been delivering with Brazos shows us that if we continue to develop products with ever lower power consumption and at the same time delivering superior graphics and processing performance, then we can address applications that are outside of [current] market segments."

When asked about cannibalization from tablets, Bergman said: "As we talk with our OEM partners, we don't see a deterioration of the market in a major way in the notebook area. And any cannibalization is built into estimates."

Bergman also took a shot at Intel's Sandy Bridge processor, which integrates new Intel graphics technology. "Prior to CES [Consumer Electronics Show] there were claims of discrete [high] level graphics real benchmarks were run on real applications, it [Sandy Bridge] fell well short of what we would offer in discrete graphics capabilities," he said.

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