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AMD alllllmost promises profitability by year end

Parsing the fine distinction between 'expectations' and 'goals'

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AMD, slapped around by what CEO Rory Read and other corporate honchos like to refer to as "the challenging macro environment," looks to regain profitability in the second half of this year.

On a conference call with analysts and reporters after announcing its weak financial results for its fourth quarter of 2012, AMD CFO Devinder Kumar expressed confidence about the company's future. "We expect our restructuring actions and our corporate reset to position us to return to profitability and free cash-flow generation in the second half of 2013," he said.

Read echoed Kumar's verbiage – almost. A wee bit less definitively, he said that his team has the "goal of returning AMD to profitability and positive free cash flow in the second half of the year."

There's a subtle but distinct difference between expectations and goals – perhaps Kumar didn't get the memo about tempering his promises.

Although Read was a bit less definite than Kumar, he nonetheless painted an optimistic picture of his company's future. "We are introducing strong new APU and graphics offerings in the first half of 2013 that will accelerate our business," he said, saying that said acceleration will be what moves AMD toward the goal line.

That accelerated business will be coupled with a corporate "reset" that focuses AMD more on embedded systems and "dense servers", and on using its graphics IP to enable richer computing experiences on clients connected to – what else? – the cloud.

Read sees the AMD's graphics IP to be a "fundamental enabler" of the future cloud-enabled future. "That's the world we're chasing," he said. "We're not going after the past. Standalone data and applications on a singular device protected by a couple of proprietary control points – that era is ending."

The standalone clients of the past will be replaced by "almost a tsunami of new devices" equipped with AMD's graphics IP fed by the cloud, Read says. "They're efficient. They're low-power. They're across embedded devices. This is the opportunity in front of us: to really get after it where we can see graphics taking the business moving forward."

Seeing as how Read was speaking with financial folks who greatly affect his company's ongoing position, he was understandably both upbeat and future-focused. "The '13 roadmap looks strong," he assured the moneymen and moneywomen on the call. "It's across the board in terms of the execution. The schedules and the launches are tracking right to the schedules that we've laid out. We're working on '14 and '15 and '16."

And speaking of the future, Read also holds out hope for increased impact from Microsoft's latest operating system. "We do think Win8 is a very important event in the industry," he said, "and I think that impact or effect will build over the course of the year. We expect the second half to be stronger than the first half."

There's that second half of 2013 again. Even though Read is optimistic about AMD's second half of this year, he didn't promise that profits during that period would lift the entire year into profitability. "If I look at the overall year," he said, he sees it being "weaker in the first half, stronger in the second half, probably a net flat to slightly down." ®

Bootnote

During his review of the high points of AMD's fourth quarter, Read did drop one optimistic data point that surprised at least one Reg reporter – namely this one: "Nearly one in every three notebooks sold in US retail in the fourth quarter were powered by AMD," he said.

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