Ever since Intel promoted Bob Swan to CEO there have been comparisons between him and Lisa Su. In a #metoo world where Intel is outspoken about diversity the most qualified, and likely least listened to, person on their board is an outnumbered woman (Tsu-Jae King Liu) . Over at AMD, who hasn’t been as outspoken on diversity, their CEO is a woman (Dr. Lisa Su). Bob is a career CFO with history going back to eBay. Dr. Lisa Su is a PhD in electrical engineering and has a deep microprocessor background going back to a long career at IBM Microelectronics where she was formally trained to be a CEO.
Now that isn’t to say that Bob was a bad choice but when you are making an argument that you want more women in the company taking a relatively unqualified older white guy and making him CEO is a tad off message. There are qualified women that should be able to, with the board’s help, run Intel. However, if you look at Intel’s board, you are still left with only one truly qualified member meaning that anyone that didn’t have the needed skill set of leading a company would fail. At least Bob had CEO experience and his CFO background meshes better with what is one of the least qualified finance heavy boards in the segment.
Process technology is one of the ways that this industry showcases leadership. Both AMD and Intel have had issues with making advancements in the past. What was fascinating with this cycle was that Intel was bad mouthing AMD’s 7nm process technology and arguing that their seemingly less advanced 10nm process was better. Only issue is they can’t apparently get it to work (well they do kind of have it working but saying it is better would be a huge stretch) making their definition of better a tad different than my own. It is like two folks arguing who has the fastest car, when one says let’s race, and the other says I can’t my car isn’t running, the argument generally ends there because a running car will generally be faster than one that isn’t running. Same here, a process that doesn’t work can’t be better than a process that does.
Intel is trying to get their own high-end graphics technology to market and to get there they have hired leadership out of AMD. However, given how hard AMD and NVIDIA are running against each other and the traditionally slower cycle times in Intel’s core CPU market it seems very unlikely that Intel physically can catch up making their likely underfunded effort another waste of money like their last attempt was. In short, Intel is starting way behind and they are traditionally slower making it rather unlikely they can catch AMD or NVIDIA from behind.
Given this is the first card of a new generation and we are pre-tuning the card’s performance is impressive. Sharply up from their last offering in terms of performance it is also very competitive with NVIDIA’s new RTX high end offerings. This is as much a credit to NVIDIA as it is to AMD because NVIDIA’s latest generation card is vastly different than their prior generation suggesting a potential performance hit. That wasn’t the case and both AMD and NVIDIA offerings perform consistent with their top of class reputations. As a gamer you’d be happy with either card (I have both and they perform impressively well).
Wrapping Up: The Ballad Of The Noob
When I think of AMD vs. Intel one song from year’s ago comes to mind. That song is the Ballad of the Noob from World of Warcraft. In this song the Noob goes up against the vastly superior opponent and should be wiped out, but the opponent is distracted and unfocused the Noob keeps pounding away and wins.
Yes, Intel is off doing drone swarms and building cameras for Autonomous cars, but AMD remains focused on building powerful CPUs and GPUs with the result, thanks to Intel’s many distractions, leadership over Intel in CPUs and outright dominance in GPU performance. Granted AMD still must still battle through a market that Intel owns, but the result is successes like this Radeon part focused on the next generation of games and creators. Intel has all but abandoned developers thanks to their shuttering of IDF which has left an interesting and relatively open field for AMD which AMD is exploiting.
In the end the lesson that AMD is giving us is that if you stay focused and execute, just like that Noob in World of Warcraft, you can whittle down and embarrass a far larger and more powerful opponent like Intel. Oh, and I might add, if you are really focused on diversity it is generally held that it is far better to start from the top than the bottom because that the only true way to break a glass ceiling.
At some point Intel still has to fix their board, AMD just has to continue to execute very well.