AMD and Samsung announce GPU strategic partnership

Samsung to integrate custom AMD Radeon graphics IP into future SoCs for mobile applications.

Back in 2009, AMD, after recently acquiring ATI, decided to get out of the mobile phone GPU business and sold the IP and other assets to Qualcomm (for $65 million). Qualcomm hired most of AMD’s group in Finland (that came out of Bitboys) and shortly thereafter introduced the Snapdragon with Adreno GPU, the most successful GPU in all of the mobile market.

And now AMD will affiliate with the biggest phone supplier in the world and provide it with GPU technology—AMD will be able to trace its GPU tech to almost every phone being made. Once, only ARM could make that claim, and that would be for CPUs.

This week, AMD and Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd. announced a multi-year strategic partnership in ultra-low power, high-performance mobile graphics IP based on AMD Radeon graphics technologies. As part of the partnership, Samsung will license AMD graphics IP and will focus on advanced graphics technologies and solutions that are critical for enhancing innovation across mobile applications, including smartphones.

“As we prepare for disruptive changes in technology and discover new opportunities, our partnership with AMD will allow us to bring groundbreaking graphics products and solutions to market for tomorrow’s mobile applications,” said Inyup Kang, president of Samsung Electronics’ System LSI Business. “We look forward to working with AMD to accelerate innovations in mobile graphics technologies that will help take future mobile computing to the next level.”

“Adoption of our Radeon graphics technologies across the PC, game console, cloud and HPC markets has grown significantly and we are thrilled to now partner with industry leader Samsung to accelerate graphics innovation in the mobile market,” said Dr. Lisa Su, AMD President, and CEO. “This strategic partnership will extend the reach of our high-performance Radeon graphics into the mobile market, significantly expanding the Radeon user base and development ecosystem.”

Key terms of the partnership include:

  • AMD will license custom graphics IP based on the recently announced, highly scalable RDNA graphics architecture to Samsung for use in mobile devices, including smartphones, and other products that complement AMD product offerings.
  • Samsung will pay AMD technology license fees and royalties.

What do we think?

Lots still to learn. For instance, will this deal kill Samsung Semiconductor’s GPU project?

Samsung is the number one mobile phone supplier using ARM processors and a Mali GPU. ARM, therefore, is one of the losers from this deal. If Samsung Electronics pushes the new SoC into other segments such as automotive, other IP suppliers in those segments could get squeezed out.

It’s a huge win for AMD. You don’t make a lot of money on individual IP sales—you make volume (not a joke), and longevity. The overhead is very low so the margins can be very good. AMD could easily make a couple hundred million a year off this deal once it goes into production. When is that? Hard to say, but assume the design qualifications have been done, and AMD has already given simulators to Samsung, they could start pouring silicon within a year, an oh my oh, does Samsung know how to pour silicon—you may recall they built a few chips for AMD.