Not all hope is lost, of course. AMD has been working to redefine its niche in the processor ecosystem since early this year, and the company continues to produce cheap, entry-level CPUs and powerful CPUs with integrated graphics, such as Trinity. Trinity actually soundly bests Ivy Bridge in IGP performance, as seen in the included graph, however, AMD can't quite match-up clock-to-clock with Intel's 3rd Gen CPU performance. With this understood, though, AMD's CPUs have been known to be competitively-priced and are often more than enough for lightweight gaming systems, as we've pointed out time-and-again.
Although the days of AMD competing directly with Intel are long past, AMD looks to become the ruler of its own domain, specifically entry-level CPUs and integrated mobile processing chips. Assuming ARM doesn't start challenging AMD in the low-end desktop market, the company seems like its current product offerings are directed and cohesive.
AMD's GPU offerings are still quite competitive in a dollar-for-dollar scenario, and have been since last generation (as seen in our price-to-performance comparison).
What led up to AMD's current position?
AMD was looking strong in 2006; it looked like AMD could eventually match Intel with its faster chips and their impending acquisition of ATI. The announcement of Fusion, the first AMD-ATI collaboration, and the release of Barcelona architecture didn't go so well. Continual product delays, issues with manufacturing process, and technical glitches made short work of the initial hype. The chips, when released, were met with critical response due to lackluster performance, as caused by internal buffer flaws.
The chips were fixed in April 2008. During this time, Intel released its Nehalem microarchitecture, and the rest is mostly history. AMD took 3 years to respond in force with its much-hyped Bulldozer line, but unfortunately for AMD, Bulldozer was another major engineering misstep and couldn't deliver on marketing promises. Its performance was depressingly underwhelming and the chips were clear losers when compared to Intel's 2nd Gen. CPUs, Sandy Bridge. AMD's disastrous luck paired with its continually poor corporate leadership had the potential to be the nail in the coffin, but the company has persevered to today.
As for whether AMD can stabilize in such a volatile marketplace - either by carving out a new niche in mobile computing or by reinvigorating their desktop line with Vishera/Piledriver, we'll soon find out. Things don't look so good at the moment.
Here's hoping AMD can get its act together.
- David D'Amico