Semi-Custom Chips And The Power Of Diplomacy Over War
This has been an interesting month for AMD not only did they announce the availability of their Ryzen Mobile processor (mobile as in Notebooks and 2-in-1 tablets) but, in conjunction with Intel, they announced what may be the most amazing laptop part yet, a combined AMD/Intel offering that could redefine the high-end laptops space. This kind of looks like AMD will be competing against AMD in the laptop space but not really because the two efforts are going after distinctly different market segments. But both efforts are also uniquely significant, and the resulting products should provide interesting options for those of us that game but also want something that had decent battery life and isn’t stupid heavy.
Let’s talk about what makes these new offerings unique from each other.
Intel/AMD: The Oxymoron Part
An Oxymoron is something like Jumbo Shrimp where the name creates something that seems uniquely contradictory. In this case the combined efforts of AMD and Intel have created a part that connects very high performance with relatively light carry weight and what should be decent battery life. Granted it won’t be cheap, they didn’t break all the rules, but, on paper, this unique part breaks most of the other mobile rules. While this does have AMD’s graphics technology in it, this is largely an Intel effort and Intel will mostly own the result. More of a showcase of AMD’s Custom Semiconductor capability than anything else this is somewhat reminiscent of their APU effort in that it combines the CPU and GPU, with some fast memory, and a unique bridge into a god send of performance, weight, battery life, and likely drool worthy laptops that many of us will lust after but not be able to afford.
Sadly, the resulting products will likely come in at the top of the price bracket for laptops you’d be willing to carry but for those that can afford them, the price will be worth the wait. This is for those that are addicted to high end gaming, who need a powerful workstation class product in the field, or for those that just want to have the top performing product in the market. Exclusivity has its price but for these buyers, that price is reasonable for the result.
AMD Ryzen+ Vega Mobile
While the Intel/AMD effort is all out with price being almost no object the AMD standalone performance mobile effort is focused more on those that are on a budget but still want performance. Lighter, cheaper, but with sharply less performance the AMD offerings are targeted more at a mainstream audience that doesn’t need the absolute performance that the unique Intel/AMD part provides or can’t afford it. If we were talking cars the Intel/AMD would be more Ferrari and the AMD Ryzen Mobile effort more Audi. Still premium but with far less exclusivity and absolute performance. But I guarantee you there are more people that drive Audi than Drive Ferrari and that the two classes of buyer don’t consider either car makers cars very often. They are different classes of driver just as the buyers of these two parts will be different classes of user.
While the Intel/AMD effort is partially a showcase for AMD’s impressive Semi-Custom effort, the AMD Ryzen Mobile Processors with Radeon Vega Graphics (RMPWRVG – now that’s a mouthful even in acronym form) is more of an overall AMD showcase. There are top teams from AMD on both efforts and can imagine a bit of cross departmental competition as a result which should improve both offerings sharply over time.
Now, at the high end, NVIDIA appears to be the target of the Intel/AMD joint effort making me wonder what NVIDIA is likely to do. This is likely going to torque them off but once they realize that what Intel did with AMD isn’t exclusive, AMD has a significant Semi-Custom business, they are likely to consider buying or partnering with the company themselves. Doing a merger with AMD would be painful both financially and operationally, but nothing is preventing them from using an AMD CPU to create a competing part for the Intel/AMD offering. NVIDIA’s CEO Jen-Hsun Haung is an out of the box thinker and likely won’t take the Intel/AMD thing without a response. If he does partner with the other side of AMD to create a competing offering the resulting competition/coopetition could redefine the PC space and result in interesting alternative products for robotics, drones, and autonomous cars from all three companies as the technology blends turn AMD into Switzerland and the combined intellectual portfolios increase their overall potential.
Wrapping Up: A Changed Future
While the parts should create some very interesting a lust worthy product this year, the most interesting aspect in play is AMD’s Semicustom business. This has allowed them to dominate the Gaming Console space and the coming, and very impressive, Xbox X is a showcase for just how much performance can be built into game console. But the partnership with Intel opens all kinds of opportunities not just with Intel but with other firms like NVIDIA and, if that happens, the combination of these firms could redefine many emerging markets very quickly. NVIDIA, Qualcomm, Broadcom, and others might find that working with AMD could create offerings they hadn’t even considered and bring to market products that otherwise might never have existed. It is turning out that AMD’s most powerful weapon may not be their CPU or GPU, but their willingness to partner and build Semi-Custom parts which is a showcase for the vision of their CEO Lisa Su. Impressive work, and kind of a showcase that often Diplomacy can have a more powerful outcome than war even in business.