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AMD Delays Fusion "Llano", Speeds Up Introduction of "Ontario" Chips

AMD's Fusion is the project that either proves the acquisition of ATI Technologies for $5.4 billion right or wrong. After years of changes in the roadmap, Advanced Micro Devices managed to shape two completely different types of products that combine x86 processing cores and graphics processing engines on the same piece of silicon. But on the home-stretch it had to dramatically change its plans, a reshuffle that was executed almost flawlessly.

For over a year it was thought that AMD would release its higher-performance code-named Llano accelerated processing unit (APU) first in Q1 2011 and only then would proceed with low-cost code-named Ontario project. However, the problems between the 32nm silicon-on-insulator process technology at Globalfoundries and the design of Llano completely changed the company's plans and the firm decided to accelerate the introduction of its Ontario and Zacate APUs for low-cost notebook, netbook and nettop systems.

"Llano - our Fusion APU offering aimed at the higher end of the client market - is generating positive customer response. However, in reaction to Ontario’s market opportunities and a slower than anticipated progress of 32nm yield curve, we are switching the timing of the Ontario and Llano production ramps. Llano production shipments are still expected to occur in the first half of next year. We have seen the rate of yield leaning below our plans on 32nm. [...] We take a bit more time to work on the 32nm yields up the curve. So, the effective change [...] to our internal plans on Llano amounts to a couple of months" said Dirk Meyer, chief executive officer of AMD, in mid-July, 2010.

The delays of Llano were much worse than projected by the executive. Instead of initiating mass production in late 2010, the company is rumoured to only start to make desktop Llano chips in July, 2011, according to sources familiar with AMD's plans. But even being whopping seven months behind the schedule, Llano will still be an interesting product.

Even though the "younger-brothers" code-named Ontario and Zacate are much less powerful than Llano, both are likely to boost or at least sustain AMD's share on the market of mobile computers as both offer higher CPU performance compared to Intel Atom, can compete against mobile Celeron processors and also feature DirectX 11-class graphics processing units with support for GPGPU and all the other advanced features.

Considering the fact that back in the past any change in AMD roadmap was a catastrophe for the company, this rescheduling of two completely different projects seems to be either a great luck or a result of a very thoughtful reorganization of the company.

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