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AMD Planning Netbook Processor for 2011

So far, the netbook and nettop markets almost entirely been defined as systems built around Intel’s low-power Atom platform, with a few ARM-based devices creeping in around the edges. Now, chipmaker AMD seems to have decided that the netbook thing is more than just a fad, and has decided to release a processor in its Fusion line specifically targeting the netbook market. The first Fusion processors for netbooks are expected to arrive in early 2011.

AMD’s Fusion line aims to compete in the same territory as Intel’s Core 15 and i7 processors, combining multiple processing cores with integrated graphics systems from ATI. The line is currently divided into two branches: “Bulldozer” will be aimed at servers and desktop systems, while “Bobcat” targets notebooks. The netbook processor will likely be part of the Bobcat line and be a new part rather than a stripped-down, lower-power version of an existing processor.

Unlike the Atom, AMD plans its netbook offering to carry significant graphics capability so users looking for a robust gaming and multimedia platform won’t have to look for something with Nvidia Ion graphics tacked on. Reports at Hardware Central and elsewhere have the chip targeting systems with 10- to 12-inch displays and consuming from 10 to 15 watts of power.

Although AMD has had considerable success with its ATI graphics products recently, some industry watchers are skeptical of its ability to compete cost-effectively with Nvidia’s Ion platform, which already has significant market momentum. And by 2011, the netbook and nettop market may have changed substantially as tablet computing threatens to finally go mainstream.