Wednesday, April 25, 2007

AMD + IBM + Charter = Nintendo...

Something just literally flashed through my head concerning AMD. Call this a wild shot in the dark if you will, but what if one of the "exit" strategies that AMD is looking at calls for purchase by Nintendo? Okay, lets step back a second and look at some factors here:

First, Nintendo already has a working relationship with AMD as is. Nintendo originally went into the N64 with a partnership with SGI, who had purchased MIPS Technology. The N64 was, as some remember, a 64bit MIPS machine. With the Gamecube, Nintendo's relationship with SGI changed. ArtX was founded by members of SGI who had worked on the N64, and ArtX designed the Memory Controller, Graphics, and System I/O functions for the Gamecube. Just before the launch of the Gamecube, ArtX was purchased by ATi. ArtX's influence within ATi is largely the credit for the turn around on driver quality, and hardware quality (R300 series).

Continuing on, with the launch of the Wii, again saw Nintendo's partners changing hands, this time falling into AMD. So, from an aspect of continuous developer relations, Nintendo has been working with the higher echelons of AMD for well over a decade.

Coming from the other side of the equation with the Fabs that actually make Nintendo's products, Nintendo has been working with both IBM and Charter Semiconducters for a long time as well. IBM was responsible for delivering the "true" hyperthreaded G5 derived "Gekko" processor in the Gamecube. IBM is also behind the second PPC processor in the Nintendo Wii.

This puts Nintendo in a position where it already has good working relationships with everybody that AMD works with as well.

Now, follow me on this: Nintendo has a reputation for making a profit on everything. The Wii has made a profit from Day 1, something that is unheard of from everybody but Nintendo.

Nintendo also happens to have a rather sizeable war chest built up to combat Sony and Microsoft. Several billion actually... More than 3.6 billion in reserves.

Nintendo could, in theory, pay off AMD's long term debt in one fell swoop.

While that thought is pondering, let me also put a couple more tidbits out there. Nintendo has a reputation for selling products that are considered to be underpowered. The Gamecube never did shake the image of being a machine for kiddies, yet it raked in profits for every hardware vendor involved. Despite the constant pixel shader and vertex shader chants from followers of the Xbox, the original Xbox never moved out of it's worldwide 3rd place spot. (Don't make me haul out the sales charts and point to where Microsoft had to restate Xbox sales amounts... 4 years in a row to tax agencies... and every single time placing it BEHIND the Gamecube).

The Nintendo DS, while having the 3D capabilities of an N64, has so soundly trashed the Playstation Portable, that even those who mock the touch interface are having to admit that the DS isn't a gimmick.

The Wii, while having more power than an original Xbox, is hardly in the league of the Xbox 360 or the Playstation3... yet unlike either High Resolution console, the Wii is selling.

So, how would this apply to AMD? Well, think about it. "Everybody" knows that Intel products are more powerful than AMD products, in the same way that half a dozen is more than six. Nintendo knows how to market products that have intentional bad press from the start, and how to make those products profitable. Imagine what Nintendo could do if it got behind selling the Athlon64.

Okay, I'll grant that this is fantasy. Nintendo has no interest in owning a hardware design company again, and despite the long list of Nintendo owned or controlled development companies and stock in other business catagories, owning and controlling the Number Two x86 processor vendor just isn't in the cards for Nintendo.

Chances are, if push ever came to shove, I can see the ArtX guys leaving AMD for spots within a Nintendo design team, but that's about all that would ever really happen.
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