Why No AMD-Powered Smartphones?

With companies chomping at the bit to enter the growing mobile space and take advantage of the opportunities therein, it’s almost more intriguing to explore why some companies don’t throw their hats in the ring. Case in point: AMD — the second largest x86 processor manufacturer in the world has yet to make their play. Why haven’t they made their push into mobile, just like everyone else?

Well, if AMD SVP Rick Bergman is to be believed, it’s because they believe their true strengths lie elsewhere. Rather than try and force their way into an already crowded market, Bergman said AMD has “other areas it can focus on in order to grow.”

Perhaps it’s a smart move for the perennial also-ran of the x86 processor race. ARM has already carried off the lion’s share of the mobile processor market, striking lucrative licensing agreements with companies like LG and Texas Instruments, meaning their processors now power a huge number of mobile devices. If AMD really wanted to compete, it would require a little bit of luck and a lot of cooperation — either with Intel to combat ARM’s stranglehold on the market, or with ARM to one-up their longtime rival. Neither of those options probably sounded very appealing.

For AMD, the future largely remains in their traditional desktop, server, and notebook offerings, but the higher-ups have set their sights on another booming market: tablets. Their Z-series processor, launched back in June, was AMD’s first step into tablet computing. While it hasn’t popped up in any must-have tablets yet, AMD remains hopeful that their graphics and processor technologies will align with the growing performance and battery needs of tablet customers. Their rival in graphics, Nvidia, thinks the same, however, and has an ambitious roadmap as well.

So is that it for them? Have they decided to watch the smartphone wars unfold from the sidelines? Not exactly: Mr. Bergman hinted that they may make a move “if the right circumstances come up and we can see a way to impact the market.” We’ll see if that conservative strategy pans out, but as my old Latin teacher used to say, “fortes fortuna adiuvat.”