AMD is jumping into the mini-notebook space, announcing that it will deliver processors next year for small laptops that can run basic applications such as web surfing and email.
The processors will be designed to fit in laptops with screens smaller than 10 inches and will be targeted at users who want secondary laptops.
However, the processors will be powerful enough to provide more than a basic "web experience", said Randy Allen, senior vice president of AMD's computing solutions group, during a speech at the company's recent financial analyst day.
AMD's plans are directly targeted at supplanting Intel's dominance in the netbook space, although AMD refers to it as the "mini-notebook" market. Intel's Atom currently is available in most netbooks, such as in Asus' Eee PC, with other companies like Via looking for a spot with its Nano processor.
Atom chips can also be found in mobile devices like MIDs (mobile internet devices). However, it wasn't immediately clear if AMD is entering the mobile device market with its new chips. That market is rife with competition from companies such as Nvidia.
AMD's processors for small laptops over the next two years will include dual-core and support for DDR3 memory, and varying amounts of cache. The first chip, code-named Conesus, will support 1MB of cache and be released in 2009. Conesus will be followed by Geneva, which will support 2MB of cache and is due for release in 2010.
The chips will also be designed in a package that fits in the more powerful ultraportables, which are small laptops designed to provide a full PC experience.
AMD's confirmation quashes speculation that the company had abandoned the development of a low-power processor. Last year, AMD said it was working on Bobcat, a chip described by the company as "designed for maximum energy efficiency and performance-per-watt for next-generation mobile devices, scaling as low as 1 watt".
Company officials have since confirmed and denied Bobcat's development at multiple stages. That led to speculation among industry observers that AMD had abandoned the project as it recovered from consecutive quarterly losses and restructuring.
The company has also delayed by two years its much-hyped Fusion laptop chip, which combines a graphics processing unit and CPU on a single chip. Originally due in 2009, the company now hopes to release a chip similar to Fusion in 2011. The new chip, code-named Llano, is targeted at mainstream laptops and desktops and will include four cores and 4MB of cache.
Filling the void created by Fusion's delay are the dual-core Caspian and quad-core Champlain chips, due for release in 2009 and 2010 respectively. Neither chips are projected to combine GPUs and CPUs on a single die.
Other new chips for 2011 announced by AMD include Ontario for ultraportables and small laptops and Orochi for high-end desktops. Chips will be manufactured using the 32-nanometer process starting in 2011, which could make them more power efficient than earlier chips, which will be manufactured using the 45-nanometer process.
AMD will continue to push ahead in the chip market, while divesting its consumer electronics business over 2009. It also plans a refresh of its graphics cards in the coming year based on the latest 40-nanometer manufacturing process.