AMD's "Fusion" processor to merge CPU and GPU

Posted by Wolfgang Gruener

Sunnyvale (CA) - AMD today announced that it has completed the acquisition of graphics chip developer ATI. The company does not waste any time to make use of the acquired knowledge: In 2007, AMD will be upgrading its mobile platform and offer a Centrino-like platform as well as integrated solutions for commercial and media systems. And there will be a processor with built-in graphics.

Behind the deal: AMD acquires ATI ...

The announcement sheds more light on some hints that AMD gave in the original acquisition announcement back in July and confirms some speculation AMD officials were not ready to explain in recent weeks. According to a press release, the company plans to "create a new class of x86 processor that integrates the central processing unit (CPU) and graphics processing unit (GPU) at the silicon level."

Collectively code-named "Fusion," AMD indicated that it is developed more than just one CPU/GPU platform, which will provide "step-function increases in performance-per-watt relative to today's CPU-only architectures." AMD so far does not describe these modular chips as high-performance graphics solutions, but as solutions that provide the "best customer experience." Fusion will support high-end discrete graphics and physics accelerators "to meet the ever-increasing needs of the most demanding enthusiast end-users," AMD said.

Fusion is expected to make its debut in the in late 2008/early 2009 timeframe. AMD said that it will use the technology within all major computing segments, including mobile, desktop, workstation, server, consumer electronics as well as products for emerging markets. Further details were not provided, but it is obvious that AMD can play with several ideas, ranging from strategies that reduce the cost of today's CPU/GPU combinations to high performance platforms that leverage the floating point capabilities of graphics engines. AMD believes that "modular processor designs leveraging both CPU and GPU compute capabilities will be essential in meeting the requirements of computing in 2008 and beyond."

The combination with ATI, however, will enable AMD also to catch up with Intel in the chipset race for integrated platforms. First platforms are scheduled to be rolled out in 2007 for commercial clients, mobile computing, and gaming and media computing. Especially interesting is the mobile segment, in which AMD so far had to rely on third party vendors to offer a complete mobile solution consisting of processor, chipset and wireless functionality. While AMD touted the flexibility of the platform, validation efforts and stability remained issues - which the company intends to fix with a "complete solution for optimized platform development." AMD promises that this approach will result in "better time-to-market, increased performance and [improved] energy-efficiency."

The company said that it will also offer integrated solutions for its "Live" entertainment platform as well as consumer electronics products. "The company intends to leverage ATI's strength in the consumer market by pursuing new opportunities to invest in the consumer electronics and high-end discrete graphics markets," AMD said in the press release.

The financials of the ATI acquisition have been slightly adjusted from the original announcement. Instead of a cash transaction of $4.2 billion, AMD will now transfer "approximately" $4.3 billion; instead of 57 million AMD shares, the transaction will now involve a total of 58 million shares of AMD common stock, valued at about $1.18 billion. AMD said that the total acquisition cost remains at about $5.4 billion. To finance the cash portion, AMD has acquired a $2.5 billion loan from Morgan Stanley.

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