By Barry Levine / CIO Today. Updated June 06, 2013.
Google's Android and Chrome operating systems are getting a boost. Chipmaker Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) said Wednesday that it would no longer be focused exclusively on producing chips for Windows PCs and tablets, and is open to making processors designed for the other platforms.
AMD's position was revealed in comments made by a company executive at the big Computex trade show taking place this week in Taiwan. Lisa Su, senior vice president and GM of global business units for AMD, told news media that her company is open to "expanding OS options" beyond its nearly exclusive focus on Windows-based machines.
"We also see a market for Android and Chrome developing as well," she said.
Su noted that AMD is expanding its custom-chip business, and that both the Android and Chrome OSes offer "flexibility for third-party chip design and integration."
Android currently runs primarily on ARM-based processors, but can also run on Intel and MIPS chips.
AMD is working with Android developers as it creates chips for that platform, but has not made public any release dates for AMD-based Android tablets. AMD's new position is a reversal of statements made in January by Su, who said then that her company was not interested in the low-end tablet market and would focus on Windows 8 tablets.
"We're betting heavily on Windows 8," she said at the time, adding specifically that AMD would be avoiding Android devices.
Like Intel, AMD has been struggling to get and maintain a foothold in the fast moving and booming world of mobile devices, given the steady decline in the sale of PCs. AMD has had much luck, however, in the game console market, with some version of its chips in each of the Big Three -- Microsoft's new Xbox One, Sony's coming PlayStation 4, and Nintendo's Wii U.
Additionally, last fall AMD announced that it was licensing ARM architecture for new Opteron server chips that will begin hitting the market next year. AMD and U.K.-based ARM, along with Texas Instruments, MediaTek and Imagination Technologies have founded the open-standards-based Heterogeneous System Architecture Foundation last year, designed to promote a single, standard architecture that allows software to work with different hardware platforms.
There are also some ongoing, independent initiatives to port Android software to tablets and PCs with AMD processors, and AMD has the BlueStacks emulator for running Android applications on its PCs. Cloud-based Chromebooks currently use ARM or Intel processors, and there have been various reports indicating these thin-client based PCs are finding footing in some large environments, such as enterprises and schools.
In April, AMD announced it was developing chips, code-named Temash, that were specifically designed for Windows 8 tablets and that would provide performance comparable to PCs only with low power consumption.
Roger Kay, an analyst with Endpoint Technologies Associates, called AMD's decision this week "an expected move," and added that the company "seems freer to make decisions about its destiny" than Intel. Moving forward, he said, he expected "to see crossover" by the chipmakers across all platforms.