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Intel's Got Game? Ex-AMDer Chris Hook Joins Company's New Discrete GPU Team

Intel has added another famous player to its discrete-graphics dream team. Chris Hook, who recently left AMD after 17 years leading the company's global marketing efforts, announced via his Facebook page that he has joined Intel (statement below). His arrival fuels speculation that the CPU maker will be coming out with its own line of gaming GPUs to compete with Nvidia and AMD.

Hook will lead Intel's marketing for visual technologies and discrete graphics products. As such, Hook appears to be Intel's first dedicated marketer for discrete graphics cards. Hook joins ex-AMD'ers Raja Koduri, who is leading Intel's graphics design teams, and Jim Keller, who joined Intel last week to head up its silicon engineering.  

Intel's re-entry into the discrete graphics card market came as shocking news earlier this year. Intel has made two prior attempts to bring a discrete gaming GPU to market, but it eventually shuttered both programs. The chip-maker hasn't confirmed that it will target the gaming market with its new products, instead saying the GPUs are designed for "a broad range of computing segments.”

Given Hook's history, his hire will certainly fuel speculation that Intel is developing gaming GPUs, which would make sense from a broader perspective. 

Intel is focusing on increasing sales in its "data-centric" businesses, which doesn't include desktop PCs. Overall, those segments accounted for 46 percent of Intel's revenue last quarter, with the high-margin Data Center Group leading the charge. The data center is rapidly transitioning to AI-heavy workloads due to power efficiency and performance gains, and GPUs are used for a broad range of those workloads.

Intel has multiple products for AI workloads, but data centers use GPUs for many of those same tasks. For example, Nvidia claims it can replace up to 300 Xeon processors, which consume 15 racks of space, with a single DXG-2 server. That certainly threatens to chip away at Intel's Xeon sales, so developing GPUs for the data center is a no-brainer.

Much like Nvidia does with its GPUs and Intel 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. Intel will likely need to build GPU production volume in the PC market to compete with Nvidia's pricing, so we doubt that Intel will reinvent the wheel with its production model.

Intel's maneuvering comes after it has made some structural changes to its hierarchy, which is likely to deal with production challenges with the 10nm process. The company is obviously bringing in some of the industry's top guns to expand into GPUs at the same time, which is a smart tactic. It's helpful to have experienced hands at the helm when you're testing new waters.

We're sure to learn more about Intel's future discrete graphics cards in the coming months. Here is Hook's statement (via Facebook):

Friends, I’m exhilarated and energized to be starting a new marketing leadership role at Intel in Santa Clara, CA.Intel is a company I’ve long admired and is without a doubt the finest silicon engineering company in the world. It also has a rich history of processor innovation dating back to the Intel 4004, which was released the year I was born. It has an equally rich history in marketing innovation, having succeeded what was once the unthinkable - turning what started as an unassuming 16-pin black ceramic integrated circuit into a household name and notable consumer brand.As many of you know, it was recently announced that Intel is embarking on a journey to expand its leading position in integrated graphics for PC with high-end discrete graphics solutions for a broad range of computing segments, and will be growing its technology portfolio across computing, graphics, media, imaging and machine intelligence for clients and data centers, AI, and edge computing.That’s a pretty exciting journey, and one I personally want to be part of. So starting tomorrow, I’ll be assuming a new role in which I’ll be driving the marketing strategy for visual technologies and upcoming discrete graphics products.I’m also excited to meet the Intel team. The folks I’ve met there so far are the best in the world at what they do; they’re laser-smart and driven to win. And there are also a few good Intel folks that I’ve had the privilege of working with in the past at AMD, world-class engineering leaders Ari Rauch, Raja Koduri and Jim Keller, who at multiple points in their careers have architected and engineered some of the most respected software and silicon in history.So here’s to the future – one with competition, choice and incredible technology.Cheers,Chris