Biz Break: AMD finds a new sense of zen with its Zen chipsets

Top Of The Order:  

That Would Make Anyone Serene: Business leaders and executives are always writing books (or, hiring someone to do the writing for them) with titles along the lines of “Leading From The Front” or “Going The Opposite Way” or “This Is My Vanity Project.” (Okay, I made that last one up. I may have made up the other two, as well.)

So along those lines, maybe Advanced Micro Devices Chief Executive Lisa Su should get cracking on a tome of her own. I’ll even suggest a title: “Zen And The Art Of Making AMD Relevant Again.” We can work out terms later, Lisa.

Now, that title might not be too far from reality, because Zen, one of AMD’s newest chipsets, has gotten a lot of love this week. At a company event on Wednesday, Su touted how much better the Zen chips perform than their predecessor, and laid the ground work for what could be a big year for AMD’s products in 2017.

And by Friday, investors had bought the story, sending AMD’s shares up 8.2 percent to close at $7.62. With Friday’s gains added to the mix, AMD’s stock price has surged 165.5 percent this year.

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Now, it’s hard to talk about AMD without getting into a lot of technical speak about things like gigahertz speed and the number of cores on the chipset. The bottom line for the average person is this: AMD is making good products that perform well, and it has found an industry (high-performance computing and graphics) where it can put its technological wherewithal to work and capitalize on areas not completely overrun by Intel. AMD is pushing its Zen chips toward high-end gaming computers, servers in the data center and thin laptops.

Business has been decent enough that it might be safe to say that AMD has turned the proverbial corner. When the company reported second-quarter results in July, it posted a profit of $69 million, or 8 cents a share, a complete turnaround from the loss of $181 million, or 23 cents a share, that AMD reported in the same period a year ago. Revenue in the quarter also rose to $1.03 billion, a 9 percent gain from year-ago sales of $942 million.

In fact, AMD has enough moxie right now that the company chose to show off Zen at its own event in San Francisco at the same time that Intel was holding its annual developers forum just a few blocks away. If Zen ends up panning out like many expect, Su will have brought a sense of zen to AMD that it hasn’t felt in years.

Middle Innings:

Maybe It’s Pay-To-Click?: By now, most everyone has at least heard of Windows 10, Microsoft’s latest version of its computer operating system. What everyone apparently hasn’t heard of, or cared about, is Edge.

No, not The Edge, the guitarist for U2 (Who, let’s be frank, would only show up at an Apple event, anyway). This Edge is a new web browser that Microsoft has included with Windows 10 and it wants people to use it. So much so that the software giants is willing to pay you to put Edge to work.

Here’s what’s up: Microsoft has re-branded its Bing Rewards program in which people could get paid for using Bing as their search engine, as Microsoft Rewards. Now, you can get “paid” if you use Bing, shop at the Microsoft store, or use Bing. Yeah, you’re right, it sounds kind of like one of those grocery-store promotions where you collect points based on how much you spend and you can then use those points toward something like a gallon of milk or a bag of Bugles.

Under Microsoft Rewards, if you use Edge for up to 30 hours a month — and Microsoft will track your Edge usage — you can then get points that can be used to purchase things at places like Starbucks and Amazon. So, start surfing with Edge. After 30 hours, you might qualify for a Starbucks tall coffee!

Or, you could just save some time and stay with Chrome or Safari or Firefox and just go to that Starbucks that is probably outside your office in 10 minutes or less.

Bottom Of The Lineup:

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

Movin’ On Up: In addition to AMD, gains came from Applied Materials, Accuray, A10 Networks, Ultra Clean Holdings and FormFactor.

In The Red: Decliners included QuinStreet, Nektar Therapeutics, Jive Software, Lending Club and Harmonic.

The tech-focused Nasdaq Composite Index slipped 1.8 points to 5,238

The blue chip Dow Jones Industrial Average gave up 45 points to close at 18,552.

And the broad-based Standard & Poor’s 500 Index shed 3 points to end the day at 2,183.

Quote Of The Day: “I want to apologize for my behavior last weekend — for not being more careful and candid in how I described the events of that early morning.” — U.S. swimmer Ryan Lochte, who apologized on Instagram Friday for his lack of care and candor with regard to his claim that he and three other swimmers were robbed at gunpoint in Rio de Janiero last week.

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Photo: AMD Chief Executive Lisa Su at the company’s Zen announcement in San Francisco on Wednesday, Aug. 17, 2016.  (Courtesy: Paul Sakuma Photography)


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