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Selling the enterprise on combining the CPU and GPU

With its A-Series APUs, AMD is out to convince the commercial market that accelerated graphics aren't just for gamers

TORONTO – After formally launching its new Fusion A-Series Accelerated Processing Units (APUs) earlier this month, processor vendor AMD Inc. (NYSE: AMD) gathered original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), partners and customers for a Canadian launch event this week, where AMD executives made the pitch for the new processors not just in the consumer space, but the commercial market as well.

A follow-on to AMD’s launch of the overall Fusion line in January, which included the E and C-Series for netbooks and select notebooks and desktops, the A-Series is designed for mainstream desktops and laptops. Drawing on the legacy of AMD’s acquisition of Markham, Ont.-based graphics company ATI Inc., the Fusion processors combine the central processing unit (CPU) and the graphics processing unit (GPU) onto a single piece of silicon.

The benefit of the improved graphics processing capability is most obvious to consumer users, providing improved performance for video and gaming. However, while most commercial users may live within Microsoft Office and other productivity apps, AMD says the business user too will benefit from laptops and desktops running the Fusion APU.

While business users may not see the need for an APU instead of a CPU at first, they’ll benefit from power savings and improved image rendering and performance said Darren McPhee, a product marketing manager with AMD Canada. Microsoft Office leverages the GPU, he said, improving performance for PowerPoint and other Office applications.

“Graphics use on a day-to-day basis is much more important than it used to be,” said McPhee.

Web browsers also leverage the GPU added Leslie Sobon, vice-president, product and platform marketing with AMD. Graphics acceleration is automatically enabled in Internet Explorer 9, but needs to be enabled from the options menu in Google’s Chrome and Mozilla’s Firefox.

“Another benefit for business users is in functions like Microsoft Live, and doing video conferencing,” said Sobon.

McPhee said regardless of whether they’re selling to consumers or to business, resellers should look at what users will be using the systems for.

“We used to think in terms of processing speed. But now we spend the majority of our time online, with our browser always open, and good graphics can help productivity and the user experience in so many ways,” said McPhee. “Graphics don’t just impact the things we see on the screen, but how fast they run as well.”

Several of Hewlett-Packard Co.‘s (NYSE: HPQ) B-Series line of business notebooks are equipped with AMD’s new A-Series processors said Phil Smith, category business manager for commercial notebooks with HP. He said AMD offers a very good ratio between price and performance for the business user, whom he said will benefit from the improved graphics processing.

“Business class doesn’t need to be top-end, but with its ability to run all their applications with great performance and excellent battery life (A-Series) really does differentiate at its price point,” said Smith. He added with little to no price difference from the previous generation of CPU-only silicon, it’s a significant performance boost nearly for free.

Reseller NCIX.com of Markham, Ont. is focused mainly on the consumer space, but general manager Terren Tong said he thinks the A-Series will do well on both markets.

“Thin and light has been what has driven users the last few years, and this puts AMD back in the market,” said Tong. “People like what they’re hearing around improved battery performance and discrete-level graphics.”

Follow Jeff Jedras on Twitter: @JeffJedrasCDN.