Samsung Attempts to Buy AMD – Speculation & Discussion
Samsung’s semiconductor game and their Exynos chipsets have gained a lot of traction recently given the unveiling of the S6, and its subsequent testing showing a remarkable step forward in performance and efficiency. This advancement was put to contrast with the outcome of Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 810 chipset, which is said company’s incursion into the octa core big.LITTLE ARM model that Samsung has been perfecting over the past 3 years.
Needless to say, said jump from their traditional Krait core arrangement was not met without turbulence that meant their flagship chip was left in the dust in comparison to Samsung’s established mastery. Thus, Samsung is on the focus for their latest chipset developments.
But the meat of today’s story has nothing to do with Qualcomm or the recent mishaps of their chipset, and it could mean an even better future for Samsung’s Semiconductor Division. An interesting story circled the web yesterday that I don’t think has gained enough attention: reports from South Korean sources claim that Samsung is allegedly planning to attempt buying Advanced Micro Devices (popularly known as AMD), a company which many of you might be familiar with given their extensive line-up of computer processing solutions. Such acquisition is not confirmed yet, and at this point we can only speculate on what it could entail. But the implications of the deal could be enormous, and they could re-shape the semiconductors game in not just mobile but all computing including new technologies we know are coming.
A little perspective
At this time, there is a very clear set of differences between Samsung and AMD. Samsung is known at XDA for their line of Galaxy devices, most notably their flagships which are some of the most supported devices by our developers. Samsung has risen to the top of the Android game, and they had peaked in 2013 with their Galaxy S4 and Note 3 devices. The subsequent year’s expectations for the S5 created such massive disappointment that the company entered a substantial decline. This pushed Samsung to shake things up, and now with their Galaxy S6, their odds look better than ever, having extremely promising pre-orders that are expected to bump the new flagships’ total sales to uncharted heights.
What these companies have in common is not just their fame in their fields, but also their product line given Samsung makes processors as well. AMD is primarily a supplier of computer chipsets and has extensive CPU and GPU intellectual properties and capabilities that put the company at a “comfortable” market share. AMD had many firsts in the silicon world such as native dual-core CPUs, 1GHz frequencies, integrated memory controllers… but despite their early adoptions and innovations, the company is subject to the intense predatory presence of silicon giant Intel.
AMD was on top of Intel’s game circa 2006, but when the latter brought 64-bit designs to their repertoire things went eery for AMD. The investments needed to sustain chipset performance bumps as well as the complexity that comes with each new technology’s manufacturing means further capital to simply stay afloat, and fewer firms can afford the luxury as the technology gets more demanding. AMD suffered in this front, and their stagnation is object of mockery amongst dedicated buyers like those in gamer communities, where the meme “more cores!” summarizes the story. Meanwhile, Intel’s investments into leading and cutting-edge architectures as well as research into new fabrication methods for smaller features, like the three-dimensional FinFET, allowed them to seize a good chunk of the premium market.
It is not very hard to find Intel’s i7 CPUs in high-end pre-built computers, for example. Intel prides themselves in their developments and continuously touts their advancements as being years ahead of the competition.
AMD stopped actual fabrication in 2009 as it had to sell its production factories, which meant that what was once a giant of innovation had to cease their integrated production process. It is said that at this point, Intel keeps AMD afloat instead of killing them off simply to not be deemed a practical monopoly in the business. Regardless, Intel’s usual share of around 85 percent of shipped desktop chips and more for laptops shows that they are, indeed, the leading company with quite a hold. Last year AMD had to cut 7% of its workforce as Intel had close to 95% of the revenue in the game for the second quarter. If AMD does too poorly, Intel eases up to allow them to continue in the business. They catch a break every now and then (they even got inside the most popular gaming consoles in the latest generation), but ultimately they have been in a bleak position.
Despite their competitive performance:price ratios, AMD is object of market predation and is seemingly kept alive for Intel’s own benefits, and to create the illusion of competition. But Samsung is big enough to be a predator as well…
If Samsung purchases AMD, the mobile industry would benefit from the merge of two big players in the semiconductor space. But Samsung’s clear aim towards dominance in the upcoming Internet of Things technological wave will most surely benefit from these developments. The ability to significantly improve their chipsets for uses besides smartphones is a goal of the Korean giant, given that the connected devices in our homes and cities will require some sort of processor package. Having increasingly smaller and efficient chipsets is, then, a huge advantage.
AMD has extensive amounts of patents and intellectual properties for CPUs and GPUs. In the GPU department, the patents that the company acquired when it bought the graphics specialist ATI in 2006 could also prove useful, and the combined expertise could ultimately be useful for Samsung. When it comes to GPUs in particular, Samsung’s Exynos chipsets rely on ARM Holdings’ Mali series which are not of their making: while they usually have the cutting edge variants that other manufacturers never see, their Exynos SoC’s brand strength could benefit from fully in-house GPUs as well.
But ultimately, AMD could also benefit. Having Samsung’s manufacturing prowess is nothing to scruff at. While AMD struggles in advancing their node shrinking, Samsung has already nailed 14nm FinFET processes on mobile. The fact that Samsung is already involved in so many manufacturing sectors like those of their RAM and NAND (that are also industry-leading as seen in the S6) means that the synergy between their current developments and fabrication strength plus AMD (and ATI’s) GPU foundations and extensive IPs could shake up both mobile and desktop – but also allow for a swift transition to the Internet of Things. There’s just a lot to gain for Samsung, from the AMD64 work going through their impressive APUs and arriving at improved server technology, and all of these things can be further enhanced to suit Samsung’s ambitions.
Nothing is certain yet, but this situation gives us a lot to ponder on. If later on news of a finalized deal beaks out, there will be a lot of speculation and analysis on what this could mean for the future of computing. Samsung is not in the best spot right now as far as mobile goes, but the company as a whole is regarded as “too big to fall”. Their latest advancements in the semiconductors space and their revamped mobile strategies are looking extremely promising, and with their IoT plans approaching reality, gathering up all the strength they can muster is simply a must for them.
Improving their CPU and GPU performance with the IP work of AMD would lead to better performance in our phones and tablets, but also allow for a more connected world once other real-life objects get the smart treatment. The combined strength of these two could also bring healthy competition back to the desktop space. Samsung’s R&D is known to be some of the best out there, and those investments are precisely what AMD has needed. That in addition to regaining manufacturing strength that they had lost with their factories would give AMD the ability to innovate again, and perhaps get back at Intel. The acquisition wouldn’t be easy, however, given that a lot of technology and patents are intertwined between Intel and AMD (Intel uses AMD patents for their 64-bit x86 design, for example, but they license x86 from Intel). Ultimately, though, it is stated that an arrangement could be made, and if it comes through we’ll have a lot to look forward to.
We will report more on these developments as we hear them, so stay tuned to our Portal.
Would you like to see the resulting collaboration of Samsung and AMD? Let us know below!