AMD banks on ARM & x86 merger with Project SkyBridge

AMD's project aims to capitalise on growing ARM processing markets

Processor

AMD has revealed its plans to bring together x86 and ARM processor chips as the firm tries to claw back market share.

Project SkyBridge represents the firm's first steps towards a much touted culture of "ambidextrous computing" with the introduction of 20nm x86 and ARM SoCs that are fully pin-compatible with each other.

Essentially, a motherboard will be able to take either ARM or x86 chips depending on the user's preference, with the possibility of switching back without hardware repercussions.

Demand for x86, according to the firm, has peaked, while the market for ARM chips is still growing. In 2015 AMD will be releasing its own ARM processing chips based on Cortex-A57 cores, before rolling its first custom-designed core (named K12) off of the line in 2016.

AMD has declined to clarify which market the new chip might be used for, instead saying that it would be an approach to a wide variety. New chief executive Rory Read told of how the company is "transforming" in a remake focusing on semi-custom chips for game consoles, servers and other smaller markets with growth potential.

"AMD now takes a bold step forward and has become the only company that can provide high-performance 64-bit ARM and x86 CPU cores paired with world-class graphics." Read said.

Versatility could be keen for AMD, which has seen its market share steadily decline since a peak of 26 per cent in 2006. That figure has now dropped to just 2.8 per cent in Q1 2014.

"We've done servers, we've done high frequency, we've done scalability," Jim Keller, the head of the design team on the AMD K12, said.

"With ARM, we can extend the range."

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