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The PC is more confusing than ever

Posted: 06.16.08

Have we created a new tower of Babel?

For a while there was peace in the valley. The PC market had gone through its consolidation, we got over the internet bubble, the platform was stable, everyone knew their place and there was a place for everyone. Life was good, margins were good, growth was good, PEs were good, people smiled at each at each other at conferences, and good cheer was shared by all.

And then things changed.

Intel decided AMD shouldn’t own the power crown (performance or watts), or the 64-bit crown, or the internal communications crown, and those pesky GPU things were growing ASPs and market share too fast—this had to stop.

The GPU suppliers decided their zillions of floating-point processors could out process the puny single floating-point processor in a scalar X86 and had the audacity to tell people that.

And AMD, fresh from its acquisition of ATI didn’t think CPU integration should stop with the memory manager and announced that the GPU would soon join it.

Intel countered by announcing it too would have internal graphics, and what’s more, a super coprocessor named Larrabee, so there.

The GPU suppliers then said they could make a PC better and greener than any CPU supplier could and introduced the hybrid concept.

In other words—it’s hit the fan brothers and sisters.

The explosion

Whereas we had two basic architectures in the PC, we have now gone to eleven architectural possibilities.

  1. AMD with internal memory manager and serial links.
  2. Intel with FSB.
  3. AMD with heterogeneous computing.
  4. Nvidia with heterogeneous computing.
  5. AMD with internal GPU.
  6. Intel with internal memory mgr and serial links (rev 1).
  7. AMD with hybrid.
  8. Nvidia with hybrid.
  9. Intel with internal memory mgr and serial links (rev 2).
  10. Intel with internal GPU.
  11. Intel with coprocessor.

And there are even more possibilities when we add dual AIBs, and AIBs with dual GPUs, and hybrid combinations of them.

In the past century, we saw the explosion of suppliers, a half dozen CPU suppliers, 70 3D graphics chip suppliers. Then we saw the consolidation to two and two.

In the last century we saw the seemingly unending escalation of clock frequency. Then we saw the sudden asymptote and the subsequent horizontal expansion of computing cores.

An d now those few suppliers, and all those cores, are being brought to bear on innovative and novel new architectures that are going to cause the OEMs and consumers’ heads to spin if not
explode.

Adding to it, we have a new war of words about where the best bang for the buck is—in the CPU or the GPU? And naturally both camps have their proofs for the answer.

Fantastic market opportunities

The differentiation possibilities and potentials for the chip supplier, the ODMs, and OEMs are enormous. We are going to see such an explosion of SKUs that BestBuy and Dixons are going to have to build bigger stores. Web pages will expand exponentially.

Reporters, analysts, and websites will have a field day explaining it all to the unwashed masses, investors and each other. Ad revenue will soar. Inventories will soar. The economy will jump five points as the PC industry offers a system for every possible situation, user, and usage case.

The messaging for all these new configurations is going to be most challenging to the OEMs. They’re the ones who have to translate the value proposition of each one into simple bite-sized four word sentences so the consumer doesn’t get scared. Yet another great market explosion—ad agencies and PR firms.

Man-o-man and mano a mano, 2008 is going to be a great year.