Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) says it retains the competitive edge despite the debut of Apple’s M1 CPU last year. “When we look at our roadmap going forward, I think we got a very competitive roadmap against what Apple is doing,” David McAfee, Corporate VP, Product Management and Marketing at AMD told indianexpress.com in an interview.
When Apple introduced its new Mac lineup with the ARM-based M1 processor in November, experts hailed the move as a masterstroke against established chip makers like Intel and AMD. Apple’s move to ditch the Intel x86 architecture over the in-house ARM-based processor for its future Mac computers was seen as the emergence of the new battle for chip supremacy between Intel, AMD and Cupertino giant.
“What Apple has done is that they have taken a different approach to design a chip,” McAfee said. “Their approach is something that has strong, single-threaded CPU performance that is right there with the Zen 3 series processor.”
Although McAfee louded AMD’s recent efforts to retain supremacy in the chip development space, he did welcome what the M1 CPU brings to the table. “I would say the biggest innovation Apple has brought into the ecosystem is the battery life and power efficiency that comes from the heritage of the mobile handset space and kind of taking it into the PC space from a mobile handset design methodology,” he said.
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McAfee said whether it’s AMD or Apple, the end goal is to create a premium computing experience and both companies have different strategies to achieve that. AMD works closely with its OEM partners and develops solutions to drive the maximum performance from the chip, whereas Apple’s chip only helps Cupertino in driving its own ecosystem. “There’s an enormous amount of opportunity for us [AMD] working with Microsoft or us [AMD] working with Google to deliver a better experience,” McAfee said.
For years, Intel dominated its presence in chip development but AMD’s rise in recent years continues to challenge its larger rival. Unable to launch chips based on 7nm node and delays in its decision to outsource production to outside firms have all contributed to the decline of Intel. But under the leadership of new Chief Executive Pat Gelsinge the semiconductor titan is making changes as part of a three-pronged manufacturing strategy called IDM (integrated Device Manufacturing) 2.0.
That said, Intel’s 7nm chip will arrive only in 2023, meaning the company is already behind the competition. AMD, which gets its chips fabricated at TSMC, currently supplies Ryzen processors to PC OEMs built from 7 nanometer (nm) transistors. The node advantage is there, because, by the time Intel brings its 7nm chips to the market, AMD will be ahead by a few product generations.
“It’s not a marketing game at all,” McAfee said when asked about the significance of nanometers in chip development. Transistor size is key to improving technology. Shrinking of transistors allows chipmakers to pack more cores and improve their processors while still maintaining power and reducing cost. “Whether you are making a smartphone, notebook or desktop workstation, no matter what it is, the thing that is most important to driving out of any design is how much performance can you deliver in every watt of power,” he explained. “Moving from seven nanometres, six nanometers, five nanometers to three nanometers…whatever comes next, each of those steps provides significant improvements.”
“There are fundamentals about the product that is absolutely essential, and those pieces have to be there regardless of who the competition is,” he said, adding that AMD is “leading in performance, in power efficiencies, and in manufacturing process technology. We can continue to do those things in spite of whatever moves that Intel or Apple might make…we will end up being in a very strong competitive position.”