The graphics card market has seen some important changes recently, with Advanced Micro Devices releasing its first boards under the 40-nanometer process technology. Starting with last year, the competition in this market segment has become tighter, with both AMD and its competitor Nvidia trying to provide users with the highest performance possible.
Last year, AMD was the first company to come to the market with a graphics card manufactured using the 55nm process technology, while this year the giant manufacturer is the first to move to the 40nm fabrication, though only in the mobile card area. Even so, we should be able to see desktop graphics cards manufactured under the same technology node in the near future, since the company is working hard on delivering the boards to the market.
We recently had the opportunity to exchange a few words with Mr. John Swinimer, Public Relations Manager at AMD, who had the kindness to shed some light on a few of the company's plans in the graphics card area, as well as in a couple of other segments AMD is actively involved in. What caught our eye from the beginning was what he had to say about the 40nm graphics cards for desktop computers, namely that the “40nm graphics processors are scheduled for arrival in the market soon.”
Mr. John Swinimer has also unveiled the fact that AMD is currently working on CPUs with integrated graphics, or APUs (Accelerated Processing Units), and that we should be able to see the first such product released in 2011. At the same time, we should also see in the near future some action in the area of ultra-portable mobile devices that come with a 10-inch diagonal screen size. Read below to see what AMD intends to do in this regard.
Softpedia: AMD has recently unveiled to the world the first graphics cards manufactured under the 40nm process node. What does this achievement represent for the company? How soon would your company be able to step forward with the next-generation fabrication technology?
AMD: AMD always seeks to deliver the most advanced, yet relevant technology to its customers. AMD was first with DirectX 10.1 support, first to design graphics cards supporting GDDR5 memory technology, first with WHQL certified drivers for Windows Vista, first to launch a unified shader architecture, and for the fifth consecutive time, first to launch GPUs based on a new process node. That’s a meaningful track record of reliable execution for our customers. We cannot provide an exact timeline of when we plan to move to 32 nm process technology, but certainly intend to maintain our lead in this area.
Softpedia: Can you tell us what has been the success rate of your latest ATI Radeon HD 4000-series and has it allowed you to gain more market share from your competitor?
AMD: It has been a great success—the market has responded incredibly well to the AMD “sweet spot” strategy where AMD targeted the performance market first, then scaled up with a multi-GPU solution that hit the enthusiast market and scaled down for the mainstream space. The Mercury Research Report for PC Graphics from 4Q2008 showed that the greatest demand for graphics cards are in the sub $100 price range, followed by the $100 price range and then the sub $300 range. AMD has products that excel in each of these markets and include next-generation technology such as DirectX 11.
Softpedia: Are CPUs with integrated graphics the next big step in computer technology? When do you expect the market to be ready for such products?
AMD: Yes, AMD believes APUs (Accelerated Processing Units) that integrate different processing capabilities on a single chip for the optimum balance of price, performance and power consumption are an important next step in computer technology. That integration will extend the benefits we already see today with ATI Stream technology, where compute workloads are divided between discrete CPU and GPU resources for efficient processing. AMD’s first APU device is planned for 2011 introduction.
Softpedia: The company has recently announced a new AMD FirePro graphics accelerator. How important is the professional graphics segment for AMD? What's the market share AMD's professional graphics accelerators enjoy?
AMD: The professional graphics market is important to AMD and the company has always had a deep commitment to this segment, as we recognize and understand the need for reliable, long-living systems for professionals.
According to Jon Peddie Research, the professional graphics market saw a decline in sales in Q4 ’08. Despite the overall downturn, Nvidia continues to hold a majority of the market share in this segment; however, AMD’s Q4 numbers reflect a “renewed competitiveness” and the company “…put an appreciable dent in Nvidia’s armor…” (Jon Peddie, Jon Peddie Research).
Softpedia: During the CeBIT show, one of your partners, Gateway, showcased a 3D solution that was powered by ATI Radeon graphics cards. Is this a product that you are currently working on, or is it already available for ATI Radeon users?
AMD: Our OEM partners have access to our ATI Radeon technology for a wide variety of uses. While we don’t have direct information about this specific demonstration, AMD has demonstrated 3D technologies at two separate occasions last year: The Cable Show 2008 in New Orleans and Cinema 2.0 Press Event.
AMD recently provided ATI Radeon graphics for a 3D stereoscopic demonstration at The Cable Show 2009 in Washington, DC.
Softpedia: Your main competitor is taking advantage of the increasing popularity of small-sized, low-power PCs (netbooks). What is the level of interest that you grant this market? Are there any plans for a netbook-like platform?
AMD: AMD understands that most consumers don’t want to sacrifice functionality for portability and affordability. That is why AMD, in collaboration with HP, launched at CES 2009 the AMD low-power technology-based platform for ultrathin notebooks—a solution that handsomely fills the gap between mini-notebooks and ultraportables.
The AMD platform for ultrathin notebooks enables notebook OEMs to design exceedingly thin and light notebooks with the productivity and rich entertainment capabilities of ultraportable notebooks, but at an affordable price. The platform debuts within the HP Pavilion dv2 notebook which will be arriving in market in North America shortly.
The line between netbooks and notebooks is beginning to blur as we see high-end netbooks in the $600+ range and we believe that people won’t even be discussing a netbook versus a notebook in a year or so. AMD has reevaluated the small laptop space and intends to compete in small devices starting at the 10-inch diagonal screen size. AMD has a continuum of solutions from Yukon, Congo, Nile and Ontario and we will have more information to share later this year [more information on these code names is available here (PDF)].
Softpedia: Microsoft has claimed to collaborate closely with its technology partners on the development of Windows 7. How would you comment on Microsoft's efforts of ensuring that AMD's graphics cards integrate seamlessly with Windows 7 in comparison with Windows Vista?
AMD: We have an incredible driver development team and with their expertise we were able to lead the Windows Vista transition with a WHQL-certified unified driver that delivered industry-leading stability. Now with the advanced state of our Windows 7 drivers, already a step ahead of the final Windows 7 release is another proof point of our graphics industry leadership. With the recent release of ATI Catalyst 9.3 graphics driver, AMD is once again demonstrating its ability to deliver performance and cutting-edge driver support. Using ATI Radeon graphics with Windows 7 can deliver high-fidelity graphics as well as enhancements such as:
• support for the Direct2D API introduced in Windows 7, giving third-party applications the ability to improve everything from ClearType text rendering to hardware-accelerated vector graphics
• enhanced Windows 7 acceleration, delivering an outstanding Windows experience
• smooth, crystal-clear playback of multimedia, including high-definition video on HD-capable screens
• incredible 3D game performance in single- and multi-GPU CrossFireX technology configurations.
All in all, AMD seems to remain committed to the idea of being able to offer innovative technologies as well as high-performance products to its customers, while also providing them with the software support they need. During the ongoing year we should be able to see new graphics cards that include support for next-generation technologies like DirectX 11 launched on the market, along with the new 40nm fabrication process, and we are eagerly awaiting to see what companies like AMD, Nvidia and even Intel will have in store for us.