Arik Hesseldahl

Recent Posts by Arik Hesseldahl

Patrick Moorhead, Longtime AMD Exec, Leaving Company

Well, that didn’t take long. A day after chipmaker Advanced Micro Devices announced plans to cut its workforce by 1,400 people, or about 10 percent, the first of what is likely to be several AMD senior executives is heading for the exits.

Patrick Moorhead, AMD’s corporate VP for strategy and an AMD Corporate Fellow, is leaving the company, and according to people familiar with his plans, will be launching a consumer-focused technology analyst and consulting firm around the time of the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in January.

Moorhead is the last remaining VP been hired by AMD’s legendary founder and former CEO, Jerry Sanders. Over 11 years at AMD he led the company’s marketing efforts around its Athlon PC and Opteron server chips that led to a bit of a renaissance at AMD from about 2005 to 2007, when the chips won a lot of business away from Intel and thus gave the bigger company a major migraine headache.

To place Moorhead (pictured from his Twitter feed) appropriately in AMD’s history, it was during these years that AMD put into products a concept called x86-64, which essentially extended the x86 instruction set — the underlying code that chips from Intel and AMD share — into what was then the bright new world of 64-bit computing, thus paving the way for machines that could contain more than two four gigabytes of memory and could handle more complex computing tasks.

AMD first put forth its approach at a chip industry event in 1999 — one that I happened to cover for a now-defunct outlet called Electronic News — at a time when Intel was championing a different approach to 64-bit computing by starting from scratch with an entirely new design. Its technology was called EPIC, for “explicitly parallel instruction set computing.” The product that eventually resulted was the exotic Itanium chip, which is today the subject of a legal dispute between software giant Oracle and Hewlett-Packard, which is for all intents and purposes the only company selling hardware that runs on Itanium.

AMD ultimately won that argument and Intel embraced its own implementation of AMD’s x86-64, now common in their mainstream desktop, notebook and server chips, but only after giving Intel and its investors fits over lost market share during 2005 and 2006.

Moorhead joined AMD in 2000 from Compaq and had also worked at the not entirely forgotten search engine outfit AltaVista, which had been launched at Digital Equipment Company, then acquired by Compaq, and is now part of Yahoo.

In more recent years he had been known primarily for being an outspoken advocate for the opportunities in mobile computing. One suspects he’ll have more to say on that topic in the coming months.

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Just as the atom bomb was the weapon that was supposed to render war obsolete, the Internet seems like capitalism’s ultimate feat of self-destructive genius, an economic doomsday device rendering it impossible for anyone to ever make a profit off anything again. It’s especially hopeless for those whose work is easily digitized and accessed free of charge.

— Author Tim Kreider on not getting paid for one’s work