Intel announced that it would develop its own discrete graphics cards late last year when it hired ex-AMDer Raja Koduri to head up its new Core and Visual Computing Group. Now Intel has divulged, via Twitter, that the company will bring a discrete graphics card to market in 2020.
Ryan Shrout, via MarketWatch, broke the news this morning when he reported that Intel CEO Brian Krzanich had told analysts at a private investor event that the discrete GPU would arrive in 2020. Shrout also reported that Navin Shenoy, Intel's executive vice president of the data center group, confirmed that the new discrete GPUs would target both the data center and consumer applications, like gaming and professional development.
Intel tweeted out the announcement confirming the 2020 launch date shortly after that. The company confirmed to us over email that it will offer solutions for both the data center and client markets, meaning graphics cards for desktop PCs, but it would not specify which version will come to market first.
Intel's admission that it would target the desktop PC market isn't entirely surprising. Much like Nvidia does with its GPUs and Intel already does with its desktop CPUs, sales to the broader desktop PC market drive up production volume and build the economy of scale that lowers costs. In turn, that assures low pricing and high margins on GPUs designed for the data center.
Intel's re-entry into the discrete graphics card market came as shocking news earlier this year because Nvidia and AMD have been the primary two discrete GPU producers for the last 20 years. Intel has made two prior attempts to bring a discrete gaming GPU to market, but it eventually shuttered both programs.
This time around, Intel is bolstering its ranks with proven talent. Jim Keller recently joined Intel to head up its silicon engineering group, and Chris Hook, Intel's first dedicated marketer for discrete graphics cards, also recently joined the blue team.
The new effort is apparently well underway, and given the typical four-year development period for new chips, the initiative likely began before Koduri joined the company. As we noted earlier this year, Intel's announcement that it's building a discrete GPU is tantamount to an open declaration of war on Nvidia. It wouldn't make sense for Intel to telegraph its intentions to its rivals several years before a product comes to market, so the company was likely already far along in development. Intel could already have a new graphics architecture in the hopper, or it's possible the new GPU is just a scaled-up iteration of its existing iGPU technology.
Intel's hardware is only part of the equation, though. The company has a reputation for a slow cadence of graphics driver and software releases, which often means the company doesn't have day-zero drivers ready for big game launches. Lately, the company has begun to speed up the cadence of its driver releases, so it appears to be ramping up its efforts.
Intel still has a lot of work to do on the enablement front, such as recruiting AIB partners, but it is possible the company will produce the new cards natively. Given the current timeline of a 2020 release, it's also safe to assume that the new graphics cards will come wielding the 10nm+ process. That would place the company on a firmer footing against AMD's new 7nm GPUs and the as-yet-undisclosed manufacturing process that Nvidia will use for its next-generation cards.
AMD has been busy reorganizing its GPU team in the wake of Koduri's exit and has promised to return to releasing a new gaming graphics card on a yearly cadence.
Meanwhile, the high-end graphics space has been eerily silent as we await Nvidia's seemingly overdue release of its new high-end graphics cards. Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang recently informed us that the company will release its new GPUs "a long time from now," which dashes our hopes for the near term.
In any case, the graphics card market is sure to heat up in the coming years, so we will likely see more innovation and faster release cadences as Intel attempts to carve out its own spot in the lucrative sector.