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AMD, Dirk Meyer, and the eternal corporate battle

Concerns over AMD's succession plans come at a difficult time for the company, and revive that old tug-of-war between marketing and engineering.

AMD's latest bust cycle could have come at a better time for the career aspirations of Dirk Meyer.

The chip company's president and chief operating officer has taken on more responsibility for the day-to-day operations of the company in the past year, but the results have not been pretty. Of course, it's not all Meyer's fault that AMD had a year to forget, losing well over a billion dollars and suffering through a series of embarrassing engineering glitches.

President and COO Dirk Meyer AMD

But, like it or not, he's the guy at the wheel. And he's also the guy that Chairman and CEO Hector Ruiz has tapped to be his successor once Ruiz is ready to retire, or once the company's board of directors decides he's ready. Meyer is a legendary engineer, having overseen two of the most important processor designs of the last 20 years, but some current and former colleagues aren't sure he has the sales chops to lead a major tech company.

Check out our story Thursday on AMD and Meyer. An interesting sideline debate is starting to get going over that eternal question: Which group is the star at a tech company? Marketing or engineering?

There's still a huge cultural divide between the two, and a CEO has to lead both organizations. He or she has to be someone who commands the respect of engineering while motivating the marketing types. Someone who has the courage to kill an ill-conceived product idea and the patience to hammer out favorable deals with suppliers and customers.

Maybe Meyer is just what AMD needs, a back-to-basics kind of leader. But how will he fare negotiating supply deals with Michael Dell and Hewlett-Packard's Mark Hurd? That's the question on the minds of AMD's board of directors as they evaluate Meyer over the new year.