AMD’s stock began skyrocketing earlier this year, but the rate of ascent is increasing after AMD CEO Lisa Su unveiled the new Zen microarchitecture this week. The unveiling of the architecture and the accompanying product demos have investors upping the tempo of bullish drumbeats as the resurgent company promises to return to relevance. AMD’s stock is up another 11% today (as of the time of this writing), for a whopping total of 330% this year.
AMD’s stock began the upward trend in April when it announced that it is licensing its technology, for $293 million this year alone, to a Chinese state-backed joint venture. The announcement triggered the largest jump in AMD’s stock price in nearly 35 years. AMD also returned to profitability in Q2 of this year, which also increased its prospects dramatically.
The Tianjin Haiguang Technology Investment Co. Ltd. (THATIC) is a joint venture that consists of AMD and both public and private Chinese companies, including the Chinese Academy of Sciences. AMD is sharing server chip designs and SoC technology as part of the lucrative agreement. The joint venture meshes well with the Chinese government’s aspirations to produce its own semiconductor technology.
For now, the venture seems confined to server chips only, but because the Zen microarchitecture will scale from desktop CPUs to the server space, it does mean that AMD is sharing the core elements of the design. AMD has remained somewhat elusive on details of the agreement, which might trigger a legal fight with Intel due to the licensing of supposedly non-transferable x86-based designs.
The emergence of the Zen-based Summit Ridge desktop CPUs, which will purportedly challenge Intel in the broader consumer market, has AMD’s financial prospects rising at an even sharper rate. Intel is unquestionably the 800-pound gorilla of the CPU world, and some speculate that its dominance has allowed it to corner the market with high-priced products, such as the $1,743 MSRP for the Core i7 6950X.
AMD has begun to focus on the mid-range and low end of the GPU market with its Polaris GPUs, which is a sound strategy that aims to capture market share in the largest segment of the market. If AMD employs the same strategy with its Zen CPUs, provided that it is competitive with similar Intel offerings, it could force Intel to become more cost competitive.
The AMD-versus-Intel debate is always heated, but both sides of the fence can likely agree that competition is good for everyone. Love them or hate them, a resurgent AMD is good for the industry. As always, the proof will be in the shipping silicon.