As we move toward a connected world, technology is integrating. In the world of AI, 5G, and the IoT (Internet-of-Things), everything will be interlinked, and semiconductors are going to be at the heart of it. Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) will also be a key part of this trend. Its RTG (Radeon Technology Group) is working on the concept of “graphics everywhere,” a term AMD CEO Lisa Su used in her interview with VentureBeat last month.
The concept of one technology everywhere is not new. Chip giant Intel (INTC) was among the first to adopt this concept. Back in 2004, its then chief technology officer, Patrick Gelsinger, outlined a technology strategy, “Intel everywhere.” According to a 2004 CNET article, Gelsinger said, “I want a piece of Intel technology touching every human on Earth, every minute of every day, in every aspect of their lifestyle.” At that time, Intel’s focus was inside PCs.
After 15 years, Intel is now in many devices we use, from data center servers and IoT devices to cars. Today, Intel earns 50% of its revenue from non-PC devices. At the Hot Chips conference in August, Intel talked about its “AI everywhere” efforts. Similarly, Intel’s Wintel joint venture partner, Microsoft (MSFT), has been working on the “Windows everywhere” concept, which became reality in 2015 with the launch of Windows 10.
Lisa Su aims graphics everywhere with Radeon
Swimming with the tide, AMD is now eyeing “graphics everywhere.” AMD’s RTG division focuses on GPUs (graphics processing units) used by gamers, PC original equipment manufacturers, gaming console makers, and cryptocurrency miners. AMD is a strong competitor for Nvidia (NVDA) in the gaming GPU market. However, Nvidia is still favored among gamers and data center GPU users.
In the VentureBeat interview, Su talked about the GPU licensing deal AMD signed with Samsung (SSNLF) in June. She said, “The way to think about it, we want Radeon graphics to be everywhere.” AMD is optimizing Radeon GPUs across product segments, from low-power applications such as smartphones to high-power applications such as data centers.
How AMD’s graphics business is faring
AMD reports its channel, PC OEM, and data center GPU sales under its CG (computing and graphics) segment. It earns 70% of its revenue from the CG segment, of which computing comprises the majority. However, AMD is growing its graphics business.
In the third quarter, AMD’s graphics revenue fell sequentially but rose YoY (year-over-year). The company does not provide its exact revenue figures or percentage changes, but lists factors affecting the business. AMD reported that its graphics revenue fell sequentially as strong channel demand offset weak demand from data center customers. AMD’s data center GPU sales were affected by cloud buying cycles and the US-China trade war. The trade war limited AMD’s shipments to Chinese customers.
In the company’s earnings call, Su said she expects data center GPU sales to increase in the fourth quarter as several cloud and high-performance computing wins materialize into earnings. She stated that AMD’s EPYC processors and Radeon Instinct GPUs will power Microsoft’s “new remote desktop offering for graphics-intensive workloads.”
AMD’s channel GPU sales were strong in the third quarter as it launched its next-generation 7nm (nanometer) Radeon RX 5500 GPU. The high channel sales boosted its graphic revenue growth YoY. The company expects channel GPU sales to strengthen further in the fourth quarter as more add-in-board partners and PC OEMs such as Acer, HP, and Lenovo adopt its new GPU.
AMD Radeon up against Nvidia
Back in July, when AMD launched its 7nm Navi-based Radeon RX5500 GPUs, Nvidia launched a Super version of its Turing-based GPUs. In response, AMD slashed its midrange Navi GPU prices two days before the launch.
The July scene repeated in late October when Nvidia launched its low-range GeForce GTX 1660 Super for $229. Hot Hardware reports AMD them slashed prices of its Polaris-based Radeon RX 590 GPU to around $200. The Radeon RX 590, which debuted last November at $279, is a refresh of two generations of old Polaris architecture.
This price competition could become a performance competition next year, when AMD and Nvidia launch their ray-tracing GPUs and 7nm GPUs, respectively. Intel plans to join the discrete GPU space next year as well, with its scalable Xe graphics card. Addressing the rising competition from Intel, Su told VentureBeat, “We always take our competition very seriously.” She added, “High-performance CPUs and GPUs are a great market to be in. We’re investing heavily in both the CPU and GPU road maps, as well as the software road map on top of that.”
This year has brought AMD’s computing success, with it overtaking Intel on both price and performance. Could next year bring graphics success for AMD?