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The Graphics Card Survey: August 2010

Talking Heads: VGA Manager Edition, September 2010

This should be the first in what is a long series of surveys compiled from leading technical people in the graphics business. So, who is participating? Let us put it this way, if a company currently makes video cards, they are more than likely answering our questions. We are drawing from many VGA companies here, some of which are AMD- or Nvidia-exclusive.

Thus far, most of this quarter’s chatter has centered on GeForce GTX 460. Nvidia is back on the attack, but it is still missing a compelling DirectX 11 contender in the lower- to mid-level performance space. Perhaps even more present on everyone’s minds are Intel’s Sandy Bridge design and AMD’s Llano APU. Both companies  promise their CPU/GPU hybrids will be “revolutionary,” “game changers,” and a way to “shake up market share.” We’ve all heard these clichés in quarterly earning calls and regular press briefings.

AMD and Intel have been on the marketing circuit, making sure everyone gets a sense that they can deliver integrated graphics at the performance levels demanded by mainstream buyers already sour on today’s mediocre solutions. In our opinion, AMD is more on a marketing warpath compared to Intel, making sure the buzz for Fusion dominates any discussion about the company. It has more to gain here, after all.

From these two topics we drew up four questions:

  • AMD is currently benefiting from a visible gap in Nvidia’s discrete product portfolio. At the moment, it lacks Fermi-based DX11 products below the $200 GeForce GTX 460. In the next three months, do you expect to see Nvidia address the low-end to mid-range desktop graphic space with derivative DX11 products?
  • CPU/GPU hybrid designs like Sandy Bridge and Llano potentially eliminate the need for a separate graphics card. Historically, integrated graphics have been inadequate for everything above productivity-oriented desktops. Do you think the integrated graphics processors in the first generation of CPU/GPU hybrids are powerful enough to replace low-end to mid-range discrete graphic solutions?
  • Will there ever come a time when integrated graphics processors with programmable logic make discrete graphics cards unnecessary?
  • As Intel and AMD integrate more functionality into their host processors, what opportunities remain for VGA vendors to add value or differentiate their products?

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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