News Bits: AMD buys ATI, Nvidia SLI Power, Microsoft Confirms Zune Brand

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AMD and ATI join forces

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AMD and ATI today announced plans to join forces – the rumors are true. The transaction is valued at ~$5.4 billion. The end result? A new and more formidable company.

In 2008 and beyond, AMD aims to transform processing technologies, with platforms that integrate microprocessors and graphics processors to address the need for a general-purpose, media-centric/data-centric/graphic-centric performance. The new company wants consumers to create their own unique products/solutions ‘within an open-innovation ecosystem free from artificial barriers to customer success.’

AMD’s Chairmen/CEO Hector Ruiz stated:

ATI shares our passion and complements our strengths: technology leadership and customer centric innovation. Bringing these two great companies together will allow us to transcend what we have accomplished as individual businesses and reinvent our industry as the technology leader and partner of choice. We believe AMD and ATI will drive growth and innovation for the entire industry, enabling our partners to create differentiated solutions and empowering our customers to choose what is best for them.”

President/CEO of ATI, Dave Orton, also made a statement:

“This combination means accelerated growth for ATI, and broader horizons for our employees. All of our product lines will benefit. Joining with AMD will enable us to innovate aggressively on the PC platform, and continue to invest significantly in our consumer business to stay in front of our markets.”

AMD anticipates it will finance the cash portion of the transaction with a combination of cash and new debt. The transaction was unanimously approved by the board of directors of each company. It is still subject to ATI shareholder approval, Canadian court supervision of a Plan of Arrangement, and other regulatory approvals.

The combined company would have achieved ~$7.3 billion in total consolidated sales during the last four quarters, with a workforce of ~15,000 employees. The company will be headquartered in Sunnyvale, California, and will maintain sales, design, and manufacturing centers worldwide and in major business centers in Silicon Valley, Austin, Texas, and Markham, Ontario. AMD’s execeutive team will be complimented by ATI’s President/CEO Dave Orton, who will serve as executive vice president of the ATI business division. Two ATI directors will join AMD’s board of directors.

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New Nvidia SLI Power – integrated + discrete GPUs together

Nvidia is working on combining an integrated and dedicated GPU that will switch seamlessly between power savings and performance. This version of SLI does not combine two graphics card for better video performance, but rather offers flexibility for notebook users.

Sony’s SZ series already uses dual graphics cards – the Nvidia GeForce Go7400 and the Intel GMA950. However, switching to one or the other requires flipping a switch and restarting the notebook.

SLI Power is Nvidia’s new tag line for the technology it is developing. Nvidia plans to be able to switch between integrated and dedicated GPUs seamlessly with no reboot. This is still being developed – the software interface is especially difficult, since Windows needs to be convinced to switch video device drivers on the fly. There is no info on when this will be completed, but sometime around Vista’s introduction seems likely.

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Microsoft confirms Zune brand

Microsoft has (finally) confirmed “Zune”, and also said that there will be multiple players and software products marketed under the name. Microsoft’s general manager of marketing, Chris Stephenson, said, “”Today we confirmed a new music and entertainment project called Zune. Under the Zune brand, we will deliver a family of hardware and software products, the first of which will be available this year.”

Stephenson also confirmed a number of rumors about the device(s) – hard drive based storage and integrated WiFi will be included. The WiFi can be used to access the Internet in addition to ‘community-based’ music sharing/streaming.

From Billboard:

Stephenson says that wireless Internet access is necessary for the portable devices to fit into Microsoft’s grander plan. That scenario is to provide ubiquitous access to digital media from a wide range of Windows-powered devices in what ultimately aspires to be one part MySpace, one part iTunes and one part Xbox Live.

Microsoft plans to expand the Zune user experience by allowing users to expand their content with Xbox 360, Windows Media Center based PCs and Windows Mobile based phones. Zune is a big part of Microsoft’s plan to expand its ‘Live’ services.

Microsoft is planning for a huge marketing blitz at launch for Zune – it will probably include live performances by popular artists.

How do you compete with Apple and the iPod? Microsoft needs to make sure that the player is fool-proof with attractive pricing. Microsoft already has a teaser site online, and a Microsoft-sponsored Zune blog.

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Quanta and Mitac to ship AMD PCs to Dell according to paper

According to Commercial Times (Chinese), Quanta Computer and Mitac International have landed orders for AMD-based desktop PCs from Dell. Shipments will start around September for the back-to-school season.

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Major Taiwan notebook OEMs to report mixed reports in July

According to Economic Daily News (Chinese), Industry sources estimate that Quanta Computer’s shipments fell by 10% in July, and Inventec saw a 5% sequential decrease, while Compal Electronics, Wistron, and Asustek saw a 5-10% shipment growth during the same period.

Quanta’s shipments most likely declined because of Dell transferring orders to Compal from Quanta. Wistron increased its shipments to HP signifigantly – HP continues to increase orders for 14″ widescreen notebooks. Industry sources expect Wistron to see a 43.1% on year increase in sales.

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