At least four executives refused AMD’s offer to become its CEO, underscoring the difficulty the chipmaker faces to remake itself with a mobile focus, a strategy that could either produce more innovation for tablet and smartphone processors or ruin the company.
Among those tapped for the job, Apple COO Tim Cook, Oracle co-president Mark Hurd, EMC COO Pat Gelsinger and Carlyle Group Managing Director Greg Summe all took a pass, according to Bloomberg.
AMD’s former CEO, Dirk Meyer, stepped down unexpectedly in January following friction with the company’s board, which was reportedly unsatisfied with Meyer’s progress on making chips for smartphones and tablets.
AMD had no presence in the market until this month, when it unveiled its Z-series Fusion chips for tablets.
Power-efficient mobile chips for laptops have always been AMD’s weakness, which doesn’t bode well for its ability to transition successfully into the smartphone and tablet market, where low power consumption is paramount.
However, the company’s newly announced Fusion processors, which combine CPU and graphics cores in a design power efficient enough for tablet use, could be winners — devices proving their capabilities have yet to arrive.
But the fact that the company appears to be having trouble finding an executive to take the helm hints at the challenges that it faces.
The company is following its arch-enemy Intel, which is also interested in the market as PC growth slumps and smartphone and tablet shipments soar. Intel itself is coming late to the party, with incumbents licensing ARM designs like Texas Instruments, Qualcomm and Broadcom largely in control.
Intel unveiled an aggressive strategy to make up for lost ground, with an innovative new manufacturing process that it says will let it leapfrog competitors. It’s not likely that AMD has a similar ace up its sleeve, especially since it divested itself of its manufacturing capabilities during its recent struggles toward profitability.
Intel and AMD will provide a counterpoint to the ARM-based incumbents currently controlling the market because their chips will run the same x86 code as PCs, meaning computer applications could run directly on the devices with a compatible OS. Although not all PC programs would be sensible to run on tablet chips, x86 compatibility does imply a huge existing library of not just apps, but full applications.
On the other hand, Microsoft is reportedly making an ARM version of its next generation of Windows, a development that might reduce the appeal of x86 processors in pocketable devices.