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Advanced Micro Devices: Ultra light on the pocket

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(AMD), the semiconductor-design innovator and manufacturer of microprocessor chips, is ready to roll out a new category of notebook PCs, billed as Ultrathins, in the third quarter of 2012. AMD has its eyes on the emerging market for thin and light notebook PCs that are expected to be the fastest growing segment this year.

AMD’s Ultrathins follow its rival, Intel’s Ultrabooks, launched last year. These were svelte laptops with features such as solid-state drives, metal cases and its chips that made for compact but high performance machines. AMD’s answer to Ultrabooks, the Ultrathins will incorporate either its E-Series accelerated processing units (APUs), called Brazos 2.0, or its Trinity (A-Series).

However, Intel is yet to make a success out of Ultrabooks. Despite the company’s committment and investments, the sales of have been sluggish due to their high prices. Yet, sleek, heavy-duty laptops are fast becoming more than a fashion statement, analysts say. At stake is a return to health for the global PC industry, which has recorded lackluster growth this year in the face of a weak economy and competition from a young product category - tablets, such as Apple’s iPad.

According to the IDC report for the first quarter of 2012 (January-March), AMD India’s market share stood at 11 per cent. It marked a yearly growth of 28 per cent when the market grew by six per cent. But the PC market showed a low year-on-year growth of 3.5 per cent. However, at 2.63 million units, it was a 7.7 per cent gain over the previous quarter. IDC’s senior analyst reasons, “The growth in PC volumes are reflective of the rise in consumption levels and investment activity for PCs in the recent past.”

For AMD India MD Ravi Swaminathan, turning Ultrathin notebooks into a success in India is his biggest task in 2012. “AMD aims to grow in the still-nascent market for ultra-thin, lightweight notebooks,” says Swaminathan. AMD has two things going for it: pricing and its new line of chips. “Manufacturers such as HP, Lenovo, Asus, Sony and Acer have signed on to use E-Series (Brazos 2.0) in laptops,” says Swaminathan. The Brazos 2.0 chip is designed for budget notebooks to balance performance and long battery-life for everyday computing needs. While the low-power processor, Trinity, combines processing units for both computing and graphics.

Both the chips enable low pricing, which could prove to be the clincher. The Ultrathins will be priced at Rs 22,300 ($399) onwards. AMD will also support features such as quick boot and resume-from-sleep speeds (from 10 to 2 seconds) for an Ultrathin notebook.

Being up against Intel, which has the lion’s share in the Indian PC market, AMD is sprucing up its distribution. “Over the last year, we have worked closely with retail chains and partners to train them on AMD-based products’ advantages, retail parameters and generating demand for them. We have 800 such partners,” says Swaminathan.

The computing crown will go to the company which sports an affordable price tag and value-adds rather than sheer processor power.”

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