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And now, there are three

Intel stirs the cauldron

Posted: By Jon Peddie 11.02.20

 

The past week has been exciting for GPU land. Overnight We went from a dominant supplier that owned all segments except integrated into a new field of players. AMD is once again challenging the high-end challenger against longtime leader Nvidia, and Intel has entered the thin and light dGPU notebook market challenging Nvidia.

The good news is that consumers have more choices, and if the laws of competition play out prices will stabilize if not go down a bit.

The case for prices declining is strong. If the PC market stays flat or declines, Intel’s entry will be cannibalistic to AMD and Nvidia. If the market expands and it’s showing evidence of doing that, then the suffering of AMD and Nvidia won’t be so bad. In either case, the incumbents will lose market share. Intel will be successful initially in the low end with their new wins with Acer, Asus, and Dell. However, there are two other factors that one must consider.

There are ten segments in the PC GPU market as illustrated in the following diagram.

GPU segments

 

AMD is present in nine of the ten, Intel is in two of the ten, and Nvidia is in eight of the ten. Last week we saw the entry of Intel into a third category (low-end dGPU notebook) and AMD into the tenth category (high-end dGPU desktop). And, Intel has expressed a plan to participate in all ten categories.

However, the market shares are uneven, as illustrated in the next chart.

Market share of GPU suppliers over time

 

In addition to filling in the segment positions, the new entries also fill application segments. Building a dGPU that will physically fit inside a thin and light notebook, including its frame-buffer memory, while keeping the power drain down is no simple feat, and Intel has demonstrated some great engineering.

AMD’s new 6000 series  Radeon AIBs brings competition to Nvidia’s monopoly on real-time ray tracing. Microsoft was the great neutralizer with DirectX 12 Ultimate, and now, gamers and content creators have a choice of GPU vendors when shopping for a ray-tracing-capable graphics card.

Nvidia and its shareholders are not going to view these developments with any joy. However, Nvidia always has a few tricks up its sleeve so don’t necessarily bet against them. One other differentiating aspect of the three hardware vendors is their software support. Not just a WHQL driver, but things like physics, materials libraries, AI containers, and even audio are needed to launch a dGPU today. One of Nvidia’s big efforts in that area that looks to rival its CUDA success is Omniverse, a universal platform for content creators.

So as Earl of Northumberland said in Shakespeare’s play King Henry IV, and Sherlock Holms co-opted, The game is afoot.