The more features a central processor steals from motherboard and video cards, the less it qualifies as a central processing unit, as understood by IT engineers. Advanced Micro Devices feels that CPUs are steadily being phased out, or that the term will take on a new meaning soon.
In a conversation with Reuters, Lisa Su outlined this view. She is a senior vice president and the general manager of global business units at AMD.
Unlike most of her colleagues in the company staff, she has not been with AMD for a very long time, which means she does not have the ‘we are x86, we know what we are doing and it is just about building better x86 devices’ mentality.
Then again, it might be that Su is more willing to admit that AMD has already moved away from the idea of a CPU and into SoC territory.
After all, while FX processors and older-generation Athlon units are still around, the bulk of the company's central chip sales consists of APUs.
Accelerated Processing Units have x86 cores, true enough, but they also have full-featured GPUs on the same silicon (graphics processing units), as well as memory controllers.
AMD only has to make the final step where its chips integrate everything else normally left to the motherboard, save for the actual interface slots and port (memory, PCI Express, SATA, USB, etc.).
Indeed, this is what will happen in 2013. Granted, the full transition might not be complete this year, but there is always next year.
Either way, the company's engineers are shifting away from pure microprocessors to system-on-chips. The advent of tablets demands no less.
Sadly, the change in perspective does not come without its costs. Quite a few engineers have resigned, and others have been and are being let go, like employees from other departments, as part of CEO Rory Read's still ongoing reorganization plan.