John has been at AMD since 2006 so I was somewhat stunned when he said with its 7th generation APU, its entirely new architectture Zen processors and new Radeon graphics processors (GPU) that it had finally caught up to, or surpassed Intel’s Skylake offerings. “Zen will compete with Intel on performance, power and specifications – not just price,” he said.
AMD has always been number two in the two horse, x86 processor race. It has made some excellent processors but unfortunately is best known for some absolute dogs that overheated and simply did strange things. In my opinion, the advances made over the past few years and the acquisition of ATI Radeon in 2006 have put it on equal footing with Intel – there is no stigma in buying an AMD product.
He reminded those present that AMD was founded in 1969 – 47 years ago and while it is best known as an x86 processor maker it has a major market share via powering Xbox, Sony and Nintendo games consoles, its Radeon product power most of the Mac Products and it is gaining significant ground in the data centre server space.
Taylor said that AMD had perhaps lacked focus but its new CEO Lisa Su (October 2014) had laser focused the company on becoming a high-performance computing and graphics company - products like Zen were the result of that. Of the company 9000 employees, more than 7000 were ‘engineers’ and its main areas of focus were:
- Immersive platforms (VR)
He mentioned a joint venture with Chinese company Nantong Fujitsu Microelectronics to gain access to the growing Chinese x86 server market giving it two server strategies – one for China and one for the rest of the world.
His comments on Virtual Reality were interesting. “VR is bringing back the PC. There is a huge investment in VR and only an x86 PC with a top end GPU will deliver. It is ideal for education, media consumption, engineering, e-sports, games and so much more,” he said. He mentioned the partnership with Associated Press to pioneer virtual reality journalism by launching a web portal for AP virtual reality, promising more journalistic endeavours soon — including lifelike VR environments built with the help of AMD.
“VR needs the horsepower that an x86 PC (or notebook) can provide and we plan to be a very big part of that with Radeon and AMD,” he said.
“For the first time since I have been at AMD, I can say with absolute confidence that AMD has the products and strategies to change any negative perceptions customers may have had. AMD has moved ‘upstream’ with its support from HP in the new business class Elitebook and believe me we will get into premium products like Dell XPS, Lenovo Yoga, and HP Spectre and many more,” he said.
While everyone expects a PC to do everything AMD had spent a lot of R&D making sure it supported things like USB 3.1 (USB-C and Thunderbolt), M.2 SATA and NVMe as well as addressing power and cooling issues. “Our new Wraith coolers are getting rave reviews – you don’t need an expensive third party cooler and more,” he said.
“By the end of the year, AMD will have moved on, to both its Zen CPU core as well as the Polaris graphics architecture. We are far closer to Intel than ever before – you always need a number two to keep them honest,” he ended.