Two Different Worlds

AMD and ATI have two different corporative cultures. ATI was a Canadian company founded by three Chinese immigrants. AMD is an American company founded by seven engineers that were already working at the semiconductor business.

We have a couple of constructive criticisms to make about ATI, and we hope AMD takes care of them if they really want to grow.

ATI had and so far still has the really bad habit of making paper launches, i.e., “launching” products that aren’t available on the market yet and won’t be for several weeks or even months, only to counter-strike products announced by NVIDIA, which, by the way, always make sure that their products are on the market on the same day of the official release.

The most critical case was with CrossFire technology. “Released” May 30th, 2005 it only came to market by the end of 2005. There are several other cases as well and the most recent one was with Radeon HD 2600 and HD 2400 series. During AMD’s technical sessions to present Radeon HD 2000 to the media in April, they said that Radeon HD 2600 and Radeon HD 2400 would be available in late June. All we got was a paper launch on June 28th, 2007 announcing the two families, but the products delayed at least two weeks to arrive at the market. This is something that AMD should definitely work on, right away.

The second main cultural difference we would like to point out is the lack of more in-depth technical information on ATI products written in clear language available to the public. On a press presentation held on September, 2005, ATI spokesperson said that from that date on all ATI would fully disclosure all the technical details (like block diagrams and in-depth explanations, for example) of their architecture, but this never hit the web, what contrasts with AMD philosophy. AMD and all other microprocessor manufacturers always made available their datasheets with in-depth information about their products. For us that work in a highly technical media, not having access to the technical information right away is really bad.

The most recent example we can give is with AMD 690G chipset (which is, in fact, an ATI product). There is no datasheet for it available on AMD’s website. The same thing happens for all GPUs.

On the other hand, if we think about another buyout AMD did in the past, the future of AMD + ATI is quite promising. In the early 1990’s AMD was struggling on the 5th generation microprocessor war. Intel had released Pentium on March, 1993 and AMD only released a counterpart, K5 (a.k.a. 5K86), on March, 1996 – 3 years later.

At this time AMD was struggling big time to catch up with Intel. Pentium-133 was released on June, 1995, while its competitor from AMD, K5-PR133 (which worked at 100 MHz), was released only on October, 1996, 18 months later. Not only that. At the same time AMD was launching K5-PR133, a 100 MHz part, Intel was launching the whole Pentium MMX line, including the 200 MHz version.

In 1995 AMD decided to buy NexGen, a company that had launched a 5th-generation x86 CPU called Nx586 and were developing a new CPU called Nx686. With this buyout AMD renamed Nx686 to K6 and finally could compete face-to-face with Intel. This also explains the success of K6 over K5.

But at that time AMD paid “only” $550 million for NexGen, not $4.2 billion, and also being a CPU designer, they were culturally closer. On the other hand, AMD stock on the day it announced it was going to buy NexGen closed at $13.06 and one year later it was quoted $8.69, 33.46% less.

Will ATI acquisition be as successful as NexGen’s? Only time will tell.

Gabriel Torres is a Brazilian best-selling ICT expert, with 24 books published. He started his online career in 1996, when he launched Clube do Hardware, which is one of the oldest and largest websites about technology in Brazil. He created Hardware Secrets in 1999 to expand his knowledge outside his home country.