Change in leadership could revitalize AMD, analysts say

AMD's appointment of Dirk Meyer as CEO may have come late, but it is a kick the company needs to be more competitive with Intel, analysts said.

The change in AMD's leadership may have come late, but it is a kick the company needs to become more competitive in the microprocessor market, analysts said.

Advanced Micro Devices on Thursday replaced Hector Ruiz with Dirk Meyer as its CEO, as the company reported its seventh consecutive quarterly net loss. Ruiz will remain as chairman with the company, where he will continue to oversee the "asset smart" strategy to reduce AMD's capital expenditure.

The company saw success in the early part of the decade under Ruiz but floundered after product delays and its inability to articulate a clear road map for its chips, analysts said. AMD has also lost significant market share to Intel, but the new leadership should infuse new energy to compete with its main rival.

AMD intends to unload some of its manufacturing assets and bounce back as a company more sharply focused on the design and development of its microprocessor technology, for which Meyer might be the right leader, said Jack Gold, principal analyst at J. Gold Associates. Meyer is a technologically savvy, hands-on guy who will bring focus to delivering microprocessor technology to customers on a consistent basis, Gold said.

Among Ruiz's questionable decisions at the helm was the triple-core Phenom processor, which was released earlier this year, Gold said. The triple-core chip was built on a quad-core chip, with one core on the chip disabled. Ruiz was focused on profit margins and failed to explain its purpose effectively, Gold said.

Another dud under Ruiz's leadership was the execution behind the design, manufacturing and delivery of the quad-core Opteron chip, code-named Barcelona, said Nathan Brookwood, principal analyst at Insight 64. The expectations for Barcelona were high, but AMD lost server market advantage to Intel in the two years it took to execute and deliver Barcelona, he said.

"Barcelona was an unmitigated disaster," Brookwood said.

Investors and the financial markets have been demanding Ruiz's scalp for a long time, Brookwood said. The markets were unhappy with his decision to acquire ATI, with its US$5.4 billion price tag, in 2006. The acquisition has since weighed on AMD as it tries to cut costs and return to profitability, with the company taking an $880 million charge in the second quarter of 2008 relating to the acquisition.

"If you're the board of directors, you have to question [Ruiz's leadership] and the board concluded that he wasn't the right guy," Brookwood said.

AMD has been posturing for a few years to be a more technology focused company, but it has taken a while to execute, said Dean McCarron, principal analyst at Mercury Research. As the company focuses on design and development of microprocessors, Ruiz can focus on the asset-smart strategy to offload its manufacturing assets and reduce capital expenditure to get AMD back on track.

"Fabs are expensive, require capital, and it takes money to keep building facilities," McCarron said.

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Agam Shah

Computerworld
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