Why AMD’s APU hasn’t fallen flat

JMP Securities chip analyst Alex Gauna believes AMD’s recently launched APUs have “fallen flat.”

“Our view stems from interviews with various computing retailers and OEMs – where representatives are not only unsupportive of new APU offerings, but are also discontinuing offerings,” Gauna claimed earlier this morning.

“We believe many investors have been gravitating to [AMD, hoping] APU offerings could close some of the gap [with Intel] – when in fact it appears the reverse is happening as Intel ramps its Visibly Smart 2nd Generation Core offerings.”

Gauna also opined that the so-called failure of AMD’s APU may allow ARM to position itself as the primary alternative to Intel in the lucrative PC market.

“OEMs could pull the life support from AMD, as other ARM-based second source alternatives to Intel emerge – with the Windows 8 transition expected to emerge around year-end.” 

However, JoAnne Feeney of LongBow Research disputed Gauna’s claims in an industry note obtained by TG Daily.

“Our checks indicate AMD is selling out its APUs, both the low-end for small, cheap notebooks (Brazos family of APUs, debuted in 12/10) and the very new Llano mainstream APUs,” Feeney confirmed.

“[Remember], Llano is just starting to ship in volume this quarter so we would not expect systems to appear on websites until later in the summer. It [actually] began shipping in limited quantities last quarter, [and is] ramping this quarter. In preparation, inventories of systems based on the older processors are likely to be clearing.”

The LongBow Research analyst also rebuffed Gauna’s prediction that PC OEMs could, in theory, adopt ARM-based processors as a second source to Intel CPUs instead of using AMD.

“Our research indicates the switch from x86 to ARM is technically infeasible now and for at least the next few years; this view emerges from our extensive discussions with CPU designers and system builders. Far too many challenges still remain to using ARM to power a notebook (or a desktop) due to the greater complexity of the memory system, I/O and storage.

“The OS is just the tip of the iceberg, so Microsoft’s move to support ARM is only one step of many needed to pave the way for ARM to power full-service notebooks. More importantly, perhaps, ARM does not yet offer nearly the computing power that x86 processors do and the willingness of consumers to sacrifice computing speed, response time, and overall experience should not be overestimated.”

Finally, Feeney reiterated that system builders continue to express “solid enthusiasm” for AMD’s move in 2012 to “combine the more advanced Bulldozer cores with its already leading-edge graphics.” 

“As such, it appears AMD’s appeal for PC OEMs will be on the rise, not the decline… We see AMD’s market share in both notebooks and servers rising in coming quarters, [while] a key barrier to OEM adoption for notebooks lifts as AMD processors finally enable compelling battery life.”