AMD inside Apple in 2009?

It may be worth Apple's while to seriously consider some upcoming AMD processors.

Brooke Crothers Former CNET contributor
Brooke Crothers writes about mobile computer systems, including laptops, tablets, smartphones: how they define the computing experience and the hardware that makes them tick. He has served as an editor at large at CNET News and a contributing reporter to The New York Times' Bits and Technology sections. His interest in things small began when living in Tokyo in a very small apartment for a very long time.
Brooke Crothers
2 min read

Here's a radical idea: a 2009 Apple computer with an AMD processor.

Improbable? Apple, AMD

Maybe this isn't in the cards, but it should be. Especially in light of Advanced Micro Devices' upcoming ultraportable platforms.

I see an upscale Netbook-like Apple computer with, let's say, a slightly smaller form factor than the Apple MacBook Air. Maybe an 11-inch or 12-inch design packing low-power (and relatively inexpensive) AMD Yukon or Congo silicon. This would not be a Netbook clone--and would offer much better graphics silicon than a Netbook--allowing Apple to sufficiently differentiate itself.

Or what about an Apple laptop with an upcoming AMD 45-nanometer mobile processor plus ATI Radeon HD 3600-level graphics that slots below the MacBook Pro? I'm sure Apple could find a head-turning way to implement this that would set it apart from the Intel-based hordes.

Or: AMD's 45-nanometer Shanghai or Phenom II in a Mac Pro? Maybe this concept is beyond the pale for the marketing folks at Apple, but it shouldn't be.

And Apple has demonstrated it can buck conventional processor politics. Intel's newest ultra-low-voltage (ULV) Core 2 Duo processors were offered by all the top-tier laptop vendors as an Intel bundle--Intel processor and Intel integrated graphics--until Apple decided to "think different" and up the ante with an Nvidia GeForce 9400M-based chipset.

Needless to say, AMD needs to go where Intel hasn't gone before in 2009. Last year was not a good year for AMD. Aside from its financial difficulties and the spinoff of its manufacturing operations, it couldn't muster a respectable challenge to Intel in server, desktop, or mobile chips. AMD's newest Shanghai processor for servers and Phenom II for desktops should be competitive with Intel offerings, but don't expect any tectonic shift in market share.

So AMD should be targeting Intel vulnerabilities--some of them self-imposed because of Intel's rigid processor segmentation in some areas--as well as exploiting its self-proclaimed advantage: AMD is the only one of the Big Three PC processor suppliers (the other two being Intel and Nvidia) that makes both CPUs and GPUs.

AMD's Fusion strategy should be more than a marketing mantra. Some unsolicited advice: find a truly unique way to fuse together the strengths of the CPU and GPU before Intel or Nvidia beat you to it.