AMD drops chief operating officer Bob Rivet

A month after AMD's chief executive Dirk Meyer declared his intention to leave, the chip maker has issued another list of casualties: chief operating officer Bob Rivet and senior vice president of corporate strategy Marty Seyer.

Announced this week in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, prepared by assistant secretary Faina Medzonsky, Rivet's departure is effective immediately - and while no official reason was given, it's easy to guess why the three high-profile executives are leaving the company in such a short space of time.

AMD has lost major ground to rival Intel in recent years, and not even the announcement of a design flaw in Intel's latest Sandy Bridge chipset has been enough to cheer the stockholders up. The recent launch of AMD's Fusion APU technology could turn things around, but it's been a hard slog to get it out of the door.

These factors alone, however, don't explain the sudden pruning at the top of the AMD tree. That comes down to one simple misstep in the company's recent history: the lack of a low-power chip for mobile devices.

The recent tablet boom, ignited by the launch of Apple's popular iPad, has proven a massive success for British chip design firm ARM - and, to a lesser extent, Intel, which has seen its low-power Atom designs chosen for a sizeable minority of tablet devices. AMD, however, has been caught on the hop.

With no Atom equivalent in its stable, aside from the ageing Geode line, it has singularly failed to jump on the tablet bandwagon - a mistake that is believed to have lead to Meyer's departure, and one that has almost certainly contributed to Rivet and Seyer clearing their desks.

It's an especially egregious error on Rivet's part. Having previously worked at mobile giant Motorola, Rivet should have predicted the rise of the mobile sector - and certainly shouldn't have sold AMD's Imageon mobile chipset business to Qualcomm in 2009 for a mere $65 million.

With AMD's Fusion line of APUs proving a quiet success in the market, it looks like the company's fortunes could be turning - but these latest departures are likely to be joined by further high-profile trimming in the near future.