Exclusive: Dirk Meyer, President and CEO of AMD
Dirk Meyer of AMD on the company's plans for its partnership with Globalfoundries and staying ahead of a changing market
itp.net spoke exclusively to Dirk Meyer, President and CEO AMD during a recent visit to Abu Dhabi, to ask about AMD's plans around its stake in Globalfoundries, how AMD intends to stay relevant in the processor market, and what he thought of AMD making a ‘Worst Run Companies of 2009' list.
(This interview was conducted before Intel settled its legal disputes with AMD)
You did the deal with Mubadala and ATIC last year to create Globalfoundries, AMD is a stake holder in Globalfoundries, but how do you take the stake beyond just a financial interest to something more beneficial?
Number one, Globalfoundries is wholly dependent right now on AMD as a customer, so to the extent we grow our business and ship more volume, that is good for Globalfoundries.
Next, we will insert graphics processors into Globalfoundries over the coming years, again to give them more volume and to give them more experience of servicing fab-less type customers, as ATI was historically fab-less. One of things that we bring to Globalfoundries is demand at the leading edge of technology. The way the foundry business works, is it is very important to have a high volume, leading-edge customer to partner with to ramp technologies and then the rest of the customer base fills in behind.
And can you direct Globalfoundries to hit your technology road maps?
The short answer is yes, I get that question a lot - ‘you don't own the factories any more, how are sure that you will get the technology you want?' As the biggest single customer of Globalfoundries we expect, not just as a result of the contract between the two companies, but as a result of normal customer and partner relationships to be involved in definition of technologies, and a on a mutual basis, decide what makes sense for both of us. We actually have that sort of relationship already with TSMC [Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company], and I expect to maintain a deeper relationship with Globalfoundries.
Does AMD have joint R&D projects with Globalfoundries?
It is joint in the sense that our technologists get together and collaboratively define the characteristics of next generation that we need for our products.
Do you have any specific CSR programs with Globalfoundries which will benefit the Middle East region?
It is more Globalfoundries [domain] - clearly part of the vision is to have Abu Dhabi become a semiconductor manufacturing hub, which involves a tremendous amount of planning, both in terms of physical infrastructure and corporate and human capital. I do know a number of Abu Dhabi engineering students were in Dresden [site of Globalfoundries Fab 1] this summer - that is managed by Globalfoundries, and as an owner of Globalfoundries it is something we fully support.
In September, ATIC bought Chartered Semiconductor Manufacturing of Singapore for $1.8bn, what is that deal going to mean for the relationship with Globalfoundries?
I think that is a very good move for Globalfoundries, for ATIC and for AMD. It brings to the Globalfoundries family a customer-facing capability in the forms of sales and marketing, design enablement, that Globalfoundries would otherwise have to build from scratch, so that is very positive; and over time there is going to be tremendous operating synergies, which clearly makes Globalfoundries the player to watch in this space, which is very good for AMD.
Do you have plans for the Middle East for AMD itself?
Clearly yes. If look at the PC industry, a major source of unit growth over the next many years is going to come from outside of North America and Western Europe, including from the Middle East and Africa, so we see this as an important region to us not only because of the partnerships that we have developed over time here, particularly with Mubadala, but also because of the market potential. Naturally we are going to increase the staff first in sales and marketing, over time technical support and from there, see where it goes.
In the PC market, we see declines in desktop share, the emergence of new form factors, how will AMD keep up with those changes?
We clearly see the notebook market as our biggest single opportunity for growth. If you look at our market share, our desktop share is in the high 20s [percent], our notebook share is 10-11%. It is really quite a low number. Notebooks, in 2008, became half of the market roughly, so clearly we are under represented in notebooks, and I will be very disappointed if over time our notebook share doesn't approach our desktop share. There is really no technological reason it shouldn't, and it won't.
You asked about form factors, starting roughly in 2008, really the notebook market started to change a little, from a form factor perspective. Historically there had been two kinds of notebook form factors, mainstream notebooks, and ultra-thin notebooks, which prior to last year, were really quite exotic and expensive devices, $1,500 and above.
Last year the netbook or mini-notebook category was introduced, and then we introduced something that we thought filled the hole in the market, between those mini-notes on the one hand, and the very expensive ultra-thins on the other hand. The mini-notes don't give a very satisfying full PC experience, 3D games don't really work, Flash player doesn't work very satisfyingly, it is more of a basic web browsing machine. So we introduced something between the two, that we call the affordable ultra-thin category, which our customers will be in the market with in Q4, with price points ranging from $499 to $899, so it fills that gap with a very good thin-and-light, good battery life machine. It really gives a full PC experience in contrast to the mini-notes.
You've said in the past that you didn't think netbook really existed as a category, do you still believe that?
I think the name will go away. People say they are going to compete in netbooks, what I would say is that the reason the netbook name exists today is because if you call it a notebook, you set expectations which aren't fulfilled - because of the reasons that I have just said, they don't give a very satisfying PC experience.
Ultimately, as technology continues to improve, we will be able to bring PC performance to smaller and smaller form factors at lower price points, at that point I don't think people will differentiate between a netbook and a notebook, there will just be a continuum of price points and form factors.