For AMD, the tablet game is all about timing

Posted by Aharon Etengoff

Yes, AMD is finally getting serious about tablets. And why not?

After biding its time and watching Intel (unsuccessfully) struggle to compete in an ARM dominated space, the strategists at AMD probably can’t think of a better time to jump into the lucrative tablet game.

For AMD, the tablet game is all about timingIndeed, Micro-Star International (MSI) will reportedly be showcasing a number of AMD Brazos-powered tablets at Computex in June.

And according to Monica Chen of DigiTimes, AMD is also "recruiting talent" for the development of Android driver software.

If true, this likely indicates that AMD may, at some point, offer Android-compatible chipsets for notebooks, tablets and perhaps even smartphones.

As Phandroid’s Quentyn Kennemer notes, if AMD does eventually dip its corporate toes into the tablet market, the company will be joining a "long list" of vendors, including Nvidia, Samsung, Qualcomm and TI. 



"If it’s anything like Nvidia’s [Tegra] story then we could see a wide range of OEMs adopting the technology for a fresh piece of technology to run tomorrow’s Android devices," writes Kennemer.

"[However], Nvidia has gotten a huge head-start in the high-performance chipset market and will likely be the de-facto offering for OEMs who want to provide dual-core devices in 2011. [Yes], AMD has a lot of ground to make up if they want to catch up, but I’m certain they’ll be able to manage just as they have on the desktop side of things."

Of course, no one can deny that Nvidia’s blazingly fast Tegra 2 processor puts the company way, way ahead of AMD in the fast-paced mobile market.

Still, as Nvidia CEO Jen-Hsun Huang is fond of saying, the establishment of a successful ecosystem is crucial for the success of any tablet.

Case in point: Apple’s iPad 2. While iOS is often criticized for its walled-garden approach, Cupertino has managed to build a thriving App Store with thousands of tablet-specific applications.

In sharp contrast, Google’s App Market offers less than 100 Honeycomb-specific apps.

In addition, Motorola’s Xoom, the first Honeycomb-powered tablet on the market, hasn’t yet been able to mount a serious challenge against Apple’s iPad 2.

As such, for AMD to have entered the tablet space any earlier would have been a rather premature move and perhaps even fiscally irresponsible.



To be sure, why not sit on the sidelines and watch Intel and Nvidia do the heavy lifting?

Such a strategy would enable AMD to learn from (and avoid) mistakes made by both companies, while allowing for the emergence of alternative platforms to Apple’s iPad.

Obviously, it remains unclear if the company’s strategy will ultimately pay off. But clearly, for AMD, the tablet game is all about timing.