Biz Break: AMD gains strength with VR push

Top Of The Order: 

AMD Gets On Your Head: It may be hard to believe, but there was once a time with AMD nearly rivaled Intel to be the leader in the market for PC processors. I say “nearly” rivaled because even with AMD’s skills, the Sunnyvale-based chipmaker was always playing second fiddle to Intel. That’s not meant to be an aspersion upon AMD, but it was a fact. Intel’s pedigree was in Robert Noyce, Andy Grove and Gordon Moore. AMD was Jerry Sanders and then…well…Hector Ruiz was good for a while, right?

And AMD hasn’t given its shareholders much to get excited about for some time, either. Less than a year ago, in July 2015, AMD’s stock price fell to $1.61 a share. The highest point AMD’s stock has seen over the last year was just $3.06 a share, on Dec. 29. The last time AMD shares reached even 5 bucks each was on July 11, 2012, when the stock touched $5.02.

To put that in a little more perspective…Mitt Romney was still a month away from officially being the Republican presidential nominee in 2012 the last time AMD’s stock was worth $5 a share.

Yeah, it’s been a long time since AMD had something to crow about. But on Monday, AMD crowed early and loudly.

The company used the Game Developer Conference in San Francisco to tell the world that it is now a force in the growing market for virtual reality technology. Among the things AMD showed off during its presentation at GDC were a demonstration of its upcoming Polaris 10 graphical processing unit, and that it’s worked with a company called Sulon Technologies to create an all-in-one, “wear-and-play” VR headset that doesn’t need to be tied to a PC unit.

And to top it off, AMD said a new study by Jon Peddie Research shows the company’s chips are powering 83 percent of the market for VR head-mounted displays, or HMDs. All of that combined to give AMD shares a lift of almost 8 percent, to close Monday at $2.72.

It may still be an emerging market for VR products, and those gadgets remain a long way off from being as popular as, say, smartphones. But 83 percent of anything is huge, and AMD’s commitment to the VR market may just suggest that the company has a real second act ahead of it.

Middle Innings:

And Out On The M1: Britain is wasting little time getting into the driverless car craze. The land of left-handed driving is preparing to test driverless cars on its motorways, or what we in the States called highways, beginning next year. The British are looking toward allowing so-called “autonomous cars” on their streets in 2020.

Bye, Bye Bitcoin: So much for the grand, two-year bitcoin experiment of Microsoft, at least with regards to the company’s Windows 10 store. An update on the Windows 10 store says that the digital currency is no longer being accepted there, and that while existing bitcoin balances may be used to complete purchases, they can’t be refunded.

Bottom Of The Lineup:

Here’s a look at how some leading Silicon Valley tech stocks did Monday…

Movin’ On Up: 

In addition to AMD, SolarCity shares rose almost 5 percent, and gains also came from Zeltiq Aesthetics, Tesla Motors and Pandora Media.

In The Red:

Arista Networks shares gave up 10 percent to close at $56.53 after Jefferies analyst George Notter cut his price target on the company’s stock to $40.25 from $52.50. Notter raised concerns about Arista’s role in Facebook’s Open Compute Project. Decliners also included Harmonic, A10 Networks, Impax Laboratories, and NeoPhotonics.

The SV150 Index of Silicon Valley’s biggest companies rose just 1.4 points to 1,578.

The tech-focused Nasdaq Composite Index added 1.8 points to close at 4,750.

The blue chip Dow Jones Industrial Average tacked on almost 16 points to end the day at 17,229.

And the broad-based Standard & Poor’s 500 Index shed 2.6 points to 2,019.

Quote Of The Day: “Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.” — Mark Twain

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Photo: AMD’s headquarters in Sunnyvale. (Bay Area News Group archives).


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