AMD: The Rise, Fall and Future of an Industry Giant

By Graham Singer on November 21, 2012, 4:18 AM

There is no single event responsible for ousting AMD from its lofty position in early 2006. The company's decline is inextricably linked to its own mismanagement, some bad predictions, its own success, as well as the fortunes and misdeeds of Intel.

AMD has long been subject of polarizing debate among technology enthusiasts. The chapters of its history provide ample ammunition for countless discussions and no small measure of rancour. Considering that it was once considered an equal to Intel, many wonder why AMD is failing today. However, it's probably fairer to ask how the company has survived so for long -- a question we intend to explore as we revisit the company's past, examine its present and gaze into its future.

Read the complete article.




User Comments: 82

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1 person liked this | Guest said:

AMD IS still the better company and they STILL produce better products.

An AMD article is like a COD review...

1 person liked this | Guest said:

Nicely Detailed and Extensive article on the history of AMD.

Cheers to the Techspot team and Graham Singer.

Hakon Hakon said:

Awesome article!

Guest said:

Thank you for nice article. Hopefully they stay longer with us.

Guest said:

Thanks Graham Singer this is a really great article! Almost brings a tear to my eye, reads like a classic tale of good vs evil.

I like to think that although AMD are scaling down right now, they will be back one day in the future after regrouping.

1 person liked this |
Staff
Jos Jos said:

Nice article indeed, kudos to @dividebyzero

1 person liked this | Guest said:

Let's hope AMD is here to stay for a long time. The lost of AMD would only impact the industry in a negative way. No real competition for Intel and Nvidia means these two companies would get away with charging even greater prices to the already high prices on their main products: CPUs & GPUs.

I certainly cringe to the thought of seeing $500 desktop CPUs and $700 midrange GPUs on store shelves.

Ranger1st Ranger1st said:

I personally find the ethical and moral corruption of Intel to be the defining point for me to support AMD since the 386 days.. ( I think I had a DX55 and a dual 500mhz PIII setup.. ).

Guest said:

Microsoft is a troll

BMfan BMfan said:

AMD IS still the better company and they STILL produce better products.

An AMD article is like a COD review...

You wouldn't have said that had you actually read the MW3 review.

Guest said:

Intel has pushed the Atom series through heavy marketing. It simply sucked, it sucked then, it sucks now. The $250 Chromebook is superior to the latest Atom chips.

The Core I series is a processing monster, but it does not deliver the type of performance graphics-wise that AMD can pull off. In the long run, AMD has the upper hand. I don't think Intel's graphics performance, especially on integrated solutions, will be superior to AMD's. And graphics performance is what the end-user will be looking for the most from now on, especially in small form factors (there are some Mini-ITX FM2 designs that will kick a**).

What really bothers me is that when Intel throws something out that clearly has sub-par performance (such as Atom or the integrated HD Graphics), the reviewers put up all sorts of caveats before showing the (horrible) numbers. When it's AMD, there's absolutely no excuse for low numbers.

Guest said:

I wish they would just buy a load full of Intel chips and stamped AMD on em...! :(

jznomoney said:

I have a AMD Bulldozer 8120. I know it doesn't benchmark as good as some of the intel chips it runs great for everything I use my pc for. I don't need to have the fastest cpu to enjoy using my pc. I do play games but it's not worth it to spend loads of money on top of the line parts because the architecture changes so fast. Middle of the road works fine for me.

cliffordcooley cliffordcooley, TechSpot Paladin, said:

I honestly think AMD would have been worse off if they hadn't purchased ATI. After all their graphical devision is what's allowing them to continue competing. I think AMD is exactly where they wanted to be, producing APU's which couldn't have been done without the ATI acquisition. AMD just didn't anticipate Intel rate of progress as well as under-estimated their own.

colinf said:

The Athlon/pentium years were great, being an overclocker was extremely fun, using pencils to unlock

now both just make bleh cpu's, theres just no challenge/fun to messing with your chip

think I might just get my thoroughbred out and have a play

Sniped_Ash said:

AMD IS still the better company and they STILL produce better products.

An AMD article is like a COD review...

Except they aren't and they don't. I wish that wasn't the case because competition is good and I've had no problem buying AMD or ATI if their offerings are better than Intel or Nvidia. Unfortunately, that isn't the case now and hasn't been for several years on the CPU side and at least a couple years on the GPU side.

MilwaukeeMike said:

I've always owned AMD - better spot on the price/performance curve for me.

Great article, DBZ! AMD overpaid for ATI and sold off mobile chip technology to Qualcomm?! Ouch!

This story sounds like a good example of a company failing to continously improve. Success can be a huge challenge for a company to handle. Just look at what Toyota did to GMC.

Looks like they could be a in a good position to put a nice pivot in their business model. Intel is already behind on low-powered mobile SoCs. AMD might be in a position to shift into a new area... gaming consoles (as mentioned), or who knows what else? As chips get smaller and faster, they'll be used in more and more places. I'm looking forward to the day when most my groceries have an RFID on them and I only have to pass by a sensor to checkout. AMD needs to get on the bandwagon.

Now if they can only find some money....

mevans336 mevans336 said:

What a wonderful trip down memory lane coupled with some very interesting insights about AMD's failings and future. It was a perfect complement to my morning cup of coffee.

Staff
Per Hansson Per Hansson, TS Server Guru, said:

Great writeup dividebyzero, I am impressed!

While I don't agree with AMD's performance vs Intel in the K6 days (it is kind of implied that via their higher clockspeed they where faster but I know for a fact they where not, because they had very weak FPU's)

I owned a K6-2 550Mhz CPU myself and it was quite a weak CPU compared to Intel's CPU's at the time.

But once I replaced that for my first Athlon, oh my, my socks flew off!

But in any case very nice article!

The Athlon/pentium years were great, being an overclocker was extremely fun, using pencils to unlock

It sure does bring back memories [link]

psycros psycros said:

I'm looking forward to the day when most my groceries have an RFID on them and I only have to pass by a sensor to checkout. AMD needs to get on the bandwagon.

Oh, don't worry, you'll be there soon. Their already gearing up to embed chips into everything, like your shoes. And <I>totally</I> by coincidence, the federal government is preparing a huge rollout of RFID sensors in high-traffic public places. Then they can track you all the time. What a wonderful idea! /s

As for AMD, buying ATI was a good idea which they bungled completely. Letting go of the mobile division was bad enough, but the combined CPU/GPU thing may be just as big of a mistake. The corporate world is perfectly happy with cheap-as-dirt onboard video. The desktop market is being driven totally by gamers now..and the first thing that usually gets upgraded in most gaming systems in the GPU. For at least a couple more years, these "APUs" are not going to be as good as discrete chipsets. All you're getting is a CPU with the unnecessary added cost of a GPU that you can't upgrade without also swapping out your processor. While it would be cool if the progress of CPUs and video chipsets were perfectly synchronized, how likely is that to happen? I also have an inherent mistrust of any device that tries to do too much. There are always compromises in performance.

Zeromus said:

I didn't know dividebyzero wrote articles lol. Good article man.

Guest said:

I really tried to make sure my new gaming laptop had AMD in it, but I just couldn't. I bought stock in the company purely because I supported them as underdogs and competitors to Intel... Looks like I may lose a lot of money.

bangs777 bangs777 said:

Make a radical new design in the processor department good enough to beat the intel's ivy bridge,sandy bridge-E series.I believe then,AMD will rise again.

1 person liked this | LinkedKube LinkedKube, TechSpot Project Baby, said:

I didn't know dividebyzero wrote articles lol. Good article man.

He also finds time to help us noobs. Who woulduv thunk it!

ArXiv76 ArXiv76 said:

Only time will tell if they go the way of DEC.

I used to love the alpha servers.

[link]

Delahaya said:

AMD has had great products at better prices for a long time now. The frustrating part is how little hay they have been able to make from that. And now, Intel really does actually have superior processors - albeit much more expensive. But even during the P4, which sucked, Intel was making more money than AMD. And Atom! How did Intel get way with that POS? It is like Intel can do anything and make money, but AMD must be perfect and even then barely get by. But AMD compounds things with stupid mistakes! Okay, you're going to buy ATI, why that price? And if you're paying that for ATI, why are you giving away Adreno for chump change? Think about how much better off AMD's bottom line would be if they were getting royalties off every Snapdragon! Ugh...

gamoniac said:

Nice article. Thanks!

Guest said:

Very well written.. nice facts and actual truth. AMD will rise again hopefully since w/o them we are f'ed by Inhell.

1 person liked this | Mugsy said:

Great article. One oversight: "SLOT-A", the very first Athlon format immediately prior to "Socket-A".

AMD was hoping to make CPU upgrades as easy as swapping out a PC card. But it was a slow inefficient design plagued by problems with cards not seated properly (one thing you CAN'T have is a CPU making a bad connection.)

I bought my first x86 PC in 1995... an AMD 120MHz 486 in had built for me by a local retailer (I build my own now). I've used nothing but AMD ever since. Never owned an Intel CPU.

Guest said:

What are you smoking? I was an AMD loyalist and had owned everything AMD since the original K6 but Intel have dominated since the introduction of Core 2 Duo, I only switched when the Core 2 Quad's were introduced and ive never looked back. AMD/ATI is drowning.

I dont mind paying extra for the performance and features Intel provide.

Staff
Steve Steve said:

Very nice article dividebyzero I enjoyed reading it and like others said it was a trip down memory lane, at least from about 1996

Guest said:

AMD have trailed (badly) on CPUs since at least Core2Duo. But they are currently more-than-competitive on GPUs. I'm thinking of buying a new PC. It will be Intel (sorry) but as for GPU, 7870 or 7950 currently offer better performance for the money than anything nvidia have.

I don't know if AMD will survive, but even if they do it seems like its going to be a very dull period in the CPU market for some time to come - the days of the likes of Am486, 586, K6-2, Athlon, Thunderbird or A64, giving Intel a much-heeded kick up the behind seem to be long gone.

Not only is no competition bad for consumer value, its also boring to watch. The underdog suddenly overtaking the top dog put some excitement into the business.

gingerbill said:

I always owned AMD up until the dual core intel chips were intel just got better than AMD. Hopefully AMD can make a big comeback as competition for intel is good for everyone.

dividebyzero dividebyzero, trainee n00b, said:

Great article. One oversight: "SLOT-A", the very first Athlon format immediately prior to "Socket-A".

Oops, my bad. Had originally intended to cover the plug-in module slot, but being an evolutionary dead end as far as AMD were concerned ( server mezzanine cards and proprietary connections notwithstanding) decided to omit the info and concentrate on the mainstream socket implementation, but you are 100% correct. Slot-A (June 1999) predated Socket-A (August 1999) by around three months.

Guest said:

Thanks for the excellent read Graham Singer, appreciate it.

Guest said:

So adreno is radeon eh...

if the ceo of amd during that time is the same as of now = "you're fired!"

qualcomm made a coup buy buying it.

kukrek kukrek said:

Article is missing lots of important things from past and just mentioned small amount of them superficially . I hope it is for to make article short enough not to bore the readers in the expense of going superficial.

---agissi--- ---agissi---, TechSpot Paladin, said:

Wow that was probably the best reading I've ever read on TS.

3 people like this | dividebyzero dividebyzero, trainee n00b, said:

Article is missing lots of important things from past and just mentioned small amount of them superficially . I hope it is for to make article short enough not to bore the readers in the expense of going superficial.

The idea was to publish an article that is accessible to a large readership. Capturing every nuance in forty-three years of history of a semiconductor company isn't particularly practical....and of course, the article was never intended as an official biography of AMD, nor a substitute for the knowledge base that is the web.

veLa veLa said:

I sure hope they don't pull out of the desktop CPU market, I always preferred their price to performance ratio, although I must admit I had to go with Intel at some points. The last AMD machine I built was an Athlon 64 X2 and I'd really like to build a Piledriver system and overclock the hell out of it soon.

Lionvibez said:

This was a great article DBZ thank you.

Takes me back down memory lane.

My first home pc was a 286. the first system I build was using an AMD 386 processor.

Miss those early days of Socket A and the thunderbird cpu's the durons were great cheap overclockers also.

Sadly my last amd system is Socket 939 Opteron 170, which I still have doing HTPC duty. I jumped ship and Nehalem and never looked back.

I do miss those years in the early 2000 with the back and forth between intel and amd and its sad to seem them in their current state. And if we do lose AMD I really hope someone will pickup Ati and keep the radeons alive.

And I think someone mentioned it but Slot A athlons were out before Socket A.

tipstir tipstir, TS Ambassador, said:

Cyrix CPU gone and the rest of them now AMD with ATI next Quad-core gen CPU with turbo I have that now with 32GB or DDR3 RAM (ram was cheap with the heatsinks and XPReady features) but in all CPU is quick for what I need it for. I hope they don't go under Out of the 3x new system I have purchased in 2012 only one is Intel the other two are AMD base. If Intel is the only maker of the chips then we're in trouble with pricing on desktop, laptops and tablets.

Guest said:

Great articel, and a wonderful trip down the memorylane, have built round 100 amd pcs up til core2 came, after that I stopped building for others, couse when I coudnt build the best with amd in a given budget (beside real cheap pc, witch are boring to build) with AMD I told them to go somewhere else to get their pcs build.

Couse it was not just that they paid OEMs to not build AMD comps, if my memory serves me well, Intel also cheated with its compiler, not letting AMD take advantage of instuctions sets that AMD cpus supported.

But aslong as a PC build had a budget that was not just the best of the best, u could almost always build an AMD gamer rig that was faster than an Intel gamer rig for the same price (a lil cheaper cpu and motherboard gives room for a lil better gpu, and as long as the cpu dosnt bottelneck the pc with the fastest gpu, is the best gamer rig)

Well thanks for the articel, great reading

greatings from Norweagian Oldtimer nerd.

Lionvibez said:

If Intel is the only maker of the chips then we're in trouble with pricing on desktop, laptops and tablets.

I see this argument posted alot and I disagree and where is why.

Intel has to continue selling cpu's to keep their insanely high profit margits something like 60% last I checked. They also have shareholders to answer to. So while I do see prices going up abit without competiton they cannot price themselves out of the market. If there products becomes too expensive and sales drop. They can no longer keep those margins and it will cause them more trouble than its worth and lost profit.

Darran Darran said:

What about the lawsuit AMD had against Inel. As far as I know that was the killing stroke. Intel payed off all the major distributors so that they wouldn't sell AMD computer from 2000 to 2005 when AMD had the it's fastest processors.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AMD_v._Intel

dividebyzero dividebyzero, trainee n00b, said:

What about the lawsuit AMD had against Inel.

I think if you read the article you'll find in paragraphs 10 and 11 of page three - with a provided link to an earlier TS news article, touch on the litigation. If you're after a more comprehensive breakdown. The judgement is available on the SEC archive site, the backround is available in many formats, and the ancillary information- such as what constitutes a loyalty discount ( a key factor in Intel's defence case) and any other point of interest can be found relatively easily via search engine... and as noted, Intel's judgement would have been a helluva lot more severe had it not been for the fact that AMD could not supply the customers it already had

AMD's woes were certainly compounded by Intel's behaviour in this timeframe- and led directly to AMD spinning off their foundry's amongst other things, but the decline of the company didn't hinge on that one facet. Rather than rehash the whole article, I'd suggest reading the relevant portions.

.

Darran Darran said:

I think if you read the article you'll find in paragraphs 10 and 11 of page three - with a provided link to an earlier TS news article, touch on the litigation. If you're after a more comprehensive breakdown. The judgement is available on the SEC archive site, the backround is available in many formats, and the ancillary information- such as what constitutes a loyalty discount ( a key factor in Intel's defence case) and any other point of interest can be found relatively easily via search engine... and as noted, Intel's judgement would have been a helluva lot more severe had it not been for the fact that AMD could not supply the customers it already had

AMD's woes were certainly compounded by Intel's behaviour in this timeframe- and led directly to AMD spinning off their foundry's amongst other things, but the decline of the company didn't hinge on that one facet. Rather than rehash the whole article, I'd suggest reading the relevant portions.

.

thanks divide. Personally I think Intels payoffs have been the biggest factor in hurting AMD. The company hasn't had enough breathing room to make a mistake here and there, even Intel makes em. AMD should have gotten 9 or 10 billion from the settlement.

dividebyzero dividebyzero, trainee n00b, said:

thanks divide. Personally I think Intels payoffs have been the biggest factor in hurting AMD

Unfortunately for AMD, they got decked by a combination rather than a single punch. AMD's fabrication capacity lagged majorly during a time when they offered a reasonable alternative to Intel's P5/P6/NetBurst CPU's- a lack of capacity and production generally scares away larger contracts, which compounded when AMD was late to market with the K8. The ATI deal effectively hung a debt millstone around AMD's neck that they still carry, and of course Intel's hardball litigation (which also included NEC and basically destroying Cyrix), "optimized" compilers, and cash incentives to OEM's. I really don't think you can pin AMD's fall on one cause- if you're going to war against Intel, I don't think it helps if your commander-in-chief is Hector Ruiz.

The company hasn't had enough breathing room to make a mistake here and there, even Intel makes em.

They do, but between an efficient management, and a ruthless business methodology, they tend to minimize the fallout. Keeping your competitors tied up in court translates into increased market share. Facing antitrust suits down the line might result in fines/sanctions, but those are likely to more than offset by the years of previous profit. The FTC might take some cash from you, but they certainly won't repossess your increased presence in the market that the unfair practice netted the company.

AMD should have gotten 9 or 10 billion from the settlement.

Maybe. But, AMD needed to service debt accrued from the ATI buyout., and antitrust cases don't seem to be the money earners that some believe them to be - Cyrix and Chips & Technologies basically got zilch, and Intel got less than a wrist slap in Japan and South Korea- even the EU's 1.06bn euro fine wouldn't make a dent in Intel's yearly profit line.

doradhorror said:

Intel has pushed the Atom series through heavy marketing. It simply sucked, it sucked then, it sucks now. The $250 Chromebook is superior to the latest Atom chips.

The Core I series is a processing monster, but it does not deliver the type of performance graphics-wise that AMD can pull off. In the long run, AMD has the upper hand. I don't think Intel's graphics performance, especially on integrated solutions, will be superior to AMD's. And graphics performance is what the end-user will be looking for the most from now on, especially in small form factors (there are some Mini-ITX FM2 designs that will kick a**).

What really bothers me is that when Intel throws something out that clearly has sub-par performance (such as Atom or the integrated HD Graphics), the reviewers put up all sorts of caveats before showing the (horrible) numbers. When it's AMD, there's absolutely no excuse for low numbers.

You're quite the elaborate troll pleading that it's mere bias towards Intel or some other accusations. AMD integrated graphics are not meant for professional graphics and neither are Intel's in their current state. The raw CPU power matters more in most benchmarks and that's where Intel destroys AMD. This has been said a billion times.

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