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Graphics Processors Strategy

X-bit labs: Back in the days both ATI and Nvidia introduced new high-end lineups of products once in six month and refresh the mainstream lineups once in a year. This time we see that both companies began to update high-end lineups relatively rarely. Can you explain why did this happen? Perhaps, because of the complexity of modern GPUs?

David Cummings: We’re still roughly on a once a year cadence. In fact, the time between the introduction of the 3870 X2 and 4870 X2 was around eight months.

X-bit labs: After AMD and ATI Technologies merged in late 2006, all graphics adapters vendors (ATI/AMD, Intel and Nvidia) started to tangibly increase performance of IGPs. Is the reason for boosting IGP performance in the fact that standalone graphics adapters [both desktop and mobile] are losing the importance, whereas integrated graphics cores is gaining the significance, or the cause is completely different?

David Cummings: Integrated graphics have succeeded because it has a place in the market. IGP typically only overlaps with value segment discrete graphics so by improving the performance of our IGP solutions, we are only marginally cannibalizing our own discrete products. At the same time, we want to offer the best possible product stack and IGP is part of that strategy. By offering better performance than competitive IGP offerings, we are differentiating our products from those of our competitors.

Despite of relatively low power consumption of its latest GPUs, AMD still does not have Mobility Radeon HD 4000-series products. The lag between the launch of desktop ATI Radeon HD 4800 in June ’08 and potential release of Mobility Radeon HD 4800 at Consumer Electronics Show or, perhaps, CeBIT 2009 is going to be dramatic. This raises questions about the strategy of ATI in the field of discrete GPUs for notebooks.

X-bit labs: Does the fact that Mobility Radeon HD 4000-series is still not introduced mean that it is less important for ATI to create discrete mobile GPUs or chipsets compared to desktop ones? Or maybe, it means that mobile IGPs are simply dramatically more important compared to GPUs for mobile computers?

David Cummings: It is a function of the market cadence. Our sweet spot strategy outlined earlier actually makes it easier than ever before for our GPUs to move from desktop to mobile, however the timing of our HD 4000 series launch precluded notebook designs shipping in 2008.

Indeed, it is crucially important for both ATI and Nvidia to introduce mobile graphics processors along with new mobile platforms from AMD or Intel, which means that graphics processors themselves should be ready well before the formal introduction so that to allow notebook designers to develop and tailor new mobile computers for new CPUs, chipsets and GPUs.

X-bit labs: After ATI left the market of IGPs for Intel processors, isn’t it in AMD’s interests to promote the discrete GPUs for both desktop and mobile PCs at any cost just to sustain the market share?

David Cummings: As mentioned earlier, given the tremendous growth of IGP, it is clear that it has its place in the market. Our IGP solutions allow AMD to provide our partners with exactly the platform or system specifications they want, often in all-AMD systems. We believe this customer-centric approach delivers significant value to our customers.

X-bit labs: Both ATI and Nvidia in the past tried to introduce cheaper/faster versions of high-end GPUs made using newer process technologies (Radeon HD 3870/RV670 and Nvidia GeForce 9800/G92, the lower-cost versions of Radeon HD 2900/R600 and GeForce 8800/G80 are among the best examples). Will this trend continue? Or does it make more sense to create new high-end products while continue selling the previous-gen high-end chips at lower prices?

David Cummings: With both the ATI Radeon HD 3000 series and HD 4000 series, we launched the families by starting with our performance and enthusiast products, and shortly thereafter rolling out value, mainstream and ultra high-end products. That pattern is likely to continue.

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