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The Motherboard Survey: Early Q4 2010

Talking Heads: Motherboard Manager Edition, Q4'10, Part 1
By , Chris Angelini

This is the first in what is to be a long series of surveys compiled from leading technical people in the motherboard business. This is going to mirror what we have been doing with the graphics survey. You're probably asking again, who is participating? What type of motherboard manufacturers are they: ODM, OEM, or some channel brand? The point of any survey is to get a variety of differing viewpoints, so it is a detriment if we leave anyone out. For that reason, if a company out there makes a motherboard, there is a very high chance we got them involved with our survey.

This specific survey is supposed to be the flip side of the Graphic Card Survey. There are two sides of the desktop graphics business: discrete and integrated. The vendors involved in discrete sales already weighed in, and we want the opinions of their peers.

  • There is an increasing move away from emphasizing raw clock rates in favor of parallelized multi-core designs. Do you think this will change as CPU/GPU hybrids take advantage of GPGPU programming, such as DirectCompute, CUDA, and Stream, easing the CPU's role in tasks that once relied on threaded processors for their performance?
  • Will there come a time when integrated graphics with programmable logic (like Sandy Bridge and Llano) make discrete graphics unnecessary?
  • One year from now, do you continue to see Nvidia active in designing chipsets, or will the company focus on its core business (discrete graphics solutions)?
  • The success of hybrid CPU/GPU designs like Sandy Bridge and Llano is closely tied to GPGPU programming. In the last major tech cycle, system integrators and consumers successfully adopted x86-64 processors and operating systems. Yet, potential benefits have been delayed because programmers, even today, are slow to adopt 64-bit programming. Do you think Intel and AMD can cause a major shift towards general purpose GPU programming within a year of their product launches?
  • CPU/GPU hybrid designs like Sandy Bridge and Llano potentially mitigate the need for a separate graphics card. Historically, integrated graphics have been inadequate for everything above entry-level desktops. Do you think the integrated graphics from the first generation of CPU/GPU hybrids are powerful enough to drive workstations and high-end desktops?


Ground Rules

We are inevitably dealing with sensitive topics here, including industry trade secrets, proprietary company strategies, and nondisclosure agreements (NDAs) pertaining to unannounced products. We want to make it clear that we fully support and believe in the purpose of NDAs and the preservation of industry secrets, as well as company strategies. These make our industry stronger, not weaker. For example, if Intel was able to change early in its Tick-Tock cycle to develop a product specifically to address the leaked specifications of an upcoming AMD processor, all of the investment capital from that leaked project becomes a sunk cost.

For this reason, information regarding industry trade secrets and proprietary company strategies is edited out, unless it's already considered common knowledge. It’s interesting information, of course, but it really doesn’t serve any purpose other than journalistic sensationalism. Information relating to specific products is generally withheld, minus a few exceptions. Information regarding specific product releases is edited to the quarter, rather than pointing at specific dates. First amendment and fourth estate aside, we are not bound by any NDAs pertaining to what our sources are telling us (NDAs usually come into play when the press gets samples close to the date of announcement).

Additionally, Chris and I have made the executive decision to withhold all participant names and the names of their respective companies for the following reasons.

  • The identity of our participants serves no real purpose for the sake of the article. It is what they say that matters.
  • Our participants now have the freedom to say whatever is on their minds, free from their company’s legal and media relation teams, without risking getting into trouble.
  • We need this to be an ongoing survey. Anything that can get these people into hot water means an ongoing industry dialogue will be cut very short.
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