AMD COO, SVP are leaving, too; what next?

— 10:58 AM on February 11, 2011

Last month's surprise departure of AMD CEO Dirk Meyer continues to cause ripples among the company's executive team. In addition to Meyer, we now know that both COO Robert Rivet and SVP of Corporate Strategy Marty Seyer are on the way out, according to EE Times and other reports.

The analysts cited in the EE Times piece don't have a tremendous amount of insight to share about the reasons behind these latest moves, other than offering a sense that AMD's board likely forced out these execs much as it did Meyer. EE Times quotes Dean McCarron of Mercury Research as saying, "I really think it's just reflecting that the board of directors is serious about getting AMD's position in the market strengthened." So although these departures are being called resignations, they are functionally firings, more likely than not.

As far as we know, the indications are that no deep, dark secret or impropriety was behind the departure of Meyers or these other execs. The board may have simply had a disagreement with Meyer over the future direction of the company, as has been the official line all along.

If true, some questions follow naturally. Why was Meyer forced out after putting AMD in a position to make its first true operating profits (without the help of payments from Intel) in quite a while? What was the nature of that disagreement? What is the board's vision for AMD's future, and how different is it from the company's current direction? As AMD rolls out Brazos, Llano, and Bulldozer over the next six-plus months, can we trust that these new products are still viewed as key foundation pieces, in key markets, for the company's future business?

Everything the firm is doing and saying could potentially change overnight as the board's leadership and hand-picked replacements for Meyer and the others begin to assert their influence. Trouble is, we've not heard any official word about how AMD's direction might be changing. Even in recent days, we understand, AMD's board and interim leadership hadn't yet communicated any substantial message about the company's future to its workforce.

We speculated when Meyer's departure was announced that the board might wish to shift AMD's focus toward smaller, lower-power computing platforms intended for smart phones, tablets, and embedded devices. Those are, of course, the hot segments right now. But the arrival of the Brazos platform, as a deadly serious competitor to Intel's Atom, makes that seem like an unlikely bone of contention. Not a heck of a lot of recalibration would be necessary for AMD to play in those segments. The technology foundation is there, at least, even if it's a die shrink or two away.

So why all the fuss? Perhaps because our speculation is dead wrong.

We just won't know much more, at least in a concrete fashion, until the remaining leadership at AMD begins communicating its vision to the outside world. Until then, we wait and wonder, scratching our heads a bit every time we catch a glimpse of an "AMD Vision" logo.

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