AMD: Ultrabooks Will Have Hard Times Competing Against Apple MacBook Air

AMD Does Not See Immediate Benefits of Ultrabooks, But Intends to Offer Competitive Chips

by Anton Shilov
09/30/2011 | 03:36 PM

Advanced Micro Devices does not consider Intel Corp.'s ultrabook initiative as an imminent success. The chip designer claims that the market of expensive laptops is dominated by Apple with its MacBook series and ultrabooks will have hard times competing against them. AMD believes that its own approach to offer different chips for inexpensive ultra-slim and multimedia-rich mainstream mobile computers is a very balanced one.


Traditionally ultra low-voltage ultra-portable notebooks were aimed at business users who need long battery life amid sufficient performance and functionality. Many of such ultra-portable computers are state-of-the-art pieces of engineering and employ the latest technologies to provide excellent reliability, stability, battery life, security and other qualities that have tremendous value for those on the road. Ultrabooks should essentially pack the same amount of features, be very responsive, stylish and cost less than $1000, according to Intel’s intentions.

Intel wants ultrabooks to employ its latest-generation microprocessors, use latest technologies available from other developers and still maintain relatively low costs. But AMD believes that there are many ways to address the market of ultra-portable mobile PCs: some may want extremely cheap netbooks with extended battery life and other may want to have powerful multimedia capabilities.

“We have been on the market with our ultra-thin strategy for some time. We have always believed there was a sweet spot in the market: the extreme sort of portability with beautiful aesthetic and very thin designs. […] We have Llano silicon solution today that delivers as good or better battery life than Intel and better all around visual experience. […] The Brazos platform [for low-cost systems] has been a runaway success for AMD,” said John Taylor, the director of client product marketing and software at AMD, in a brief interview with X-bit labs.

Ultra-thin notebook aimed at consumers is not a completely new trend. Back in 2009 Intel already proposed so-called consumer ultra low-voltage (CULV) platform that was supposed to bring ultra-thin notebooks to the masses without using the latest manufacturing technologies and expensive materials. CULV has failed on the market. Ultrabook approach includes high-end materials and precise technology processes, so it is very different.

AMD does not believe in imminent success of ultrabooks and thinks that the new PCs will end up competing against already successful products like Apple MacBook Air, which are powered by the very same Intel Core i-series “Sandy Bridge” microprocessors. Meanwhile, Apple has been dominating the market of expensive consumer PCs for some time now.

"We have to wait and see when the actual thing comes to market and when Windows 8 comes to market and how does the final product [ultrabook hardware and Windows 8 software] look like as a $1000/€1000 type device. And how will it compete against already successful Apple MacBook Air. [...] The $1000+/€1000+ PC market is completely dominated by Apple,” said Mr. Taylor.

AMD asserts that many of the features of so-called ultrabooks are to be based on Windows 8 software and will eventually migrate to mainstream systems.

“Windows 8 brings a number of capabilities that Intel would seem to be collecting under the banner of ultrabook. As well, there are a few things that they are doing with higher-end components that they are looking at that enable faster wake and sleep and this type of capabilities [in Windows 8],” claimed Mr. Taylor.

But while the ultrabook initiative may not be an imminent success, AMD may well have silicon offerings – including, but not limited to the much hyped and not-yet-available code-named Trinity accelerated processing unit – to address the market of highly-responsive and highly-portable laptops that cost less than a $1000.

"I don't want go into specifics around what we can do with Trinity silicon. But Trinity represents a step-up in x86 performance, a step up in graphics performance and a step up in some areas around video, where we are already leaders. I don't want to get too specific about our 2012 roadmaps, but we have two different types of APUs that we can bring to that ultra-thin market as we move forward to their introduction next year," concluded Mr. Taylor.