AMD 'Yukon' looks beyond Netbooks

Chipmaker will target its Yukon technology at ultraportables but not necessarily the Netbook market.

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

Updated at 3:20 p.m. PST throughout with clarification of Yukon and Congo technologies

An AMD-based Netbook? Maybe, maybe not.

On Thursday at an analyst meeting, AMD disclosed "Yukon" and "Congo"--the names that AMD is giving to its silicon technology, due in 2009, that will target the "ultraportable" market. (The meeting was streamed live from the event.)

AMD is targeting Yukon at ultraportable designs like the Voodoo Envy 133 notebook
AMD is targeting Yukon at ultraportable designs like the Voodoo Envy 133 notebook Hewlett-Packard

The company is being very careful to parse this as a more full-featured ultraportable PC play not a strict Netbook play.

The ideal ultraportable form factor is a MacBook Air-style design: very thin with a 13-inch screen, according to AMD spokesman John Taylor.

In short, AMD is not offering an enthusiastic endorsement of the Netbook market. "The target is the slim form factor with a larger screen. Not a 10- or 11- or 12-inch screen," Taylor said. He quickly added that smaller Netbook-style designs may appear but repeated that this is not the emphasis.

Why? AMD's approach is to deliver "a full PC experience," Taylor said. "That's not what you can say about some of the Netbook-type products on the market today," he said. AMD will do this by tapping into the graphics chip technology from its ATI unit, according to Taylor.

"Customers are not satisfied with the experience on mini-notebooks," said Bahr Mahony, director, notebook product marketing at AMD, speaking during the analyst meeting on Thursday. AMD refers to Netbooks as mini-notebooks. Bahr said data shows that there are high return rates in Europe where many consumers have been snapping up Netbooks.

AMD's goal, therefore, is to offer a "more satisfying" experience on higher-performance laptop designs like the MacBook Air, Mahony said.

The tech specs that AMD is currently disclosing for Yukon/Congo are a sub 25-watt platform (processor and chipset) with single and dual-core options. Currently, its mainstream Turion processors operate at over 30 watts. (Correction: the "sub 25-watt" Yukon/Congo refers to both the processor and chipset.)

AMD also showed a Congo platform

AMD roadmap shows future Conesus and Geneva ultraportable chips
AMD roadmap shows future Conesus and Geneva ultraportable chips AMD
AMD Congo and Yukon ultraportable platforms
AMD Congo and Yukon ultraportable platforms AMD

AMD showed an ultraportable dual-core 65-nanometer chip dubbed "Conesus" on its road map. This will fall under the Congo platform umbrella. Huron will have one core and fall under the Yukon platform. After this, a 45-nanometer Geneva chip will debut in 2010. (Correction: Conesus falls under the Congo platform.)

Taylor also offered this thinking: Intel's Netbook strategy is somewhat restrictive in that designs are small, at least under 12 inches and--to date--usually under 10 inches. Without mentioning Intel by name, he said this restriction is to "protect segmentation of your business." In other words, if Intel delivers a chip that addresses larger designs it would cannibalize Intel's more profitable mainstream mobile processor lines.