AMD launches A-series Fusion all-in-one chips

Tony Fernandez-Stoll AMD

Tony Fernandez-Stoll, vice president of marketing for the Americas at AMD

Following a first half of the year in which the company “crushed” expectations for its Fusion advanced processing units (APUs), AMD has introduced the mainstream member of the family of combined processors and graphics cards, the A-series.

Since it launched the C and E series Fusion APUs earlier this year, the company is closing in on 50 per cent of unit share at retail, said Tony Fernandez-Stoll, vice president of marketing for the Americas at AMD. In total, the company has shipped some 5 million of the “Brazos” chips since its launch in January, owing partly to the chips own successes and to its largest competitor’s own woes with rolling out Sandy Bridge.

But the company sees the A series, its first Fusion APUs targeted at the mainstream of computing, really kicking things into high gear for the rest of the year.

Fernandez-Stoll said the company’s focus for back-to-school and beyond is largely on the new A-series, targets at “mainstream” notebooks (as opposed to the thin-and-light target for previous Fusion chips), all-in-ones, desktops and embedded opportunities.

Like its predecessors in the Fusion family, the A-series melds AMD’s processing units with the graphics processing capabilities the company purchased when it bought Markham, Ont.’s ATI Technologies. Perhaps because of that Canadian connection, Fernandez-Stoll, himself an ATI vet, said the company notices an interesting trend in the Canadian market – we care more about graphics than our Stateside compatriots.

“We’re selling higher-end products in Canada than in the U.S.,” he said, with the biggest differentiator being discrete vs. onboard graphics processing.

AMD is going after that interest in graphics with its “Brilliant HD” branding for Fusion APUs, along with its “AllDay Power” branding for the extended battery life on Fusion APUs and a “Personal Supercomputing” brand for the ability to use the graphics chip to boost overall system performance.

Beyond the A-series lineup, AMD will turn its attention to the server part of its lineup, introducing 16-core “Bulldozer” chips in the latter half of the year, focused on reducing price performance per watt of power. Aimed at the Web/cloud and high-performance computing crowd, Fernandez-Stoll said AMD is seeing momentum in the server and data centre market with big wins with major players including Facebook and Google building their own cloud either off AMD gear or in custom development deals with the chipmaker.

New chips aren’t the only thing going on at AMD. Fernandez-Stoll provided an update on the company’s Vision program, which attempts to relieve consumer confusion over what computer branding means.

Previously, the company had Vision Premier, Vision Ultimate, and Vision Black branding for its mainstream, upper-mainstream and hardcore/enthusiast products, respectively. But Fernandez-Stoll said consumers still found the program, designed to cut down on user confusion, too… well… confusing.

“Eighty per cent of our retail reps could explain Vision, but they couldn’t upsell from there based on it,” Fernandez-Stoll said. Because the tiers of the program were wide enough apart, it left consumers wondering why they would choose, for example, a $699 Premier product over a $599 Premier product.

Instead, Vision branding will now follow the line of products and the number of cores in the processor, giving us branding of Vision A4, Vision A6 and Vision A8, eliminating the need, Fernandez-Stoll suggests, of “explaining the guts of the system” to the average user.

And on the channel front, after getting its reseller, system builder, distributor and embedded partners all brought into its overarching Fusion Partner Program, AMD is now turning its attention to the consumer side of the world, with plans to integrate retailers into Fusion during the second half of 2011.

The company is also currently hosting its first-ever Fusion Developer Conference in Seattle this week, giving application makers the tools to optimize app performance on Fusion chips. Currently, there are more than 50 applications already accelerated on Fusion APUs, but Fernandez-Stoll said the company believes the more, the merrier.

“It’s a core part of our strategy,” he said.