Holy cow: the news explosion from CES

CES came and we all stayed at home. That's maybe just as well. We know several people who think they may have gotten Covid-19 at last year's event. They had caught what they at first thought was a really bad case of the CES Flu. As always, reporting on CES is really a months-long process as the entire universe for consumer electronics resets itself for a new year. And this, friends, is a big new year.

Jon Peddie

Qualcomm changes CEOs and buys CPU company Nuvia, Intel rehires Pat Gelsinger, Jim Keller takes over Canadian AI company, AMD announces Ryzen 5000 and the majority of gaming notebooks, Nvidia brings ray tracing to the masses with RTX3600, Dell and HP introduce massive monitors as well as 15- and 17-inch notebooks. Qualcomm and Nvidia announce they are the partner of Chinese electric car company NIO. AMD and Nvidia announce they are Mercedes’ partner. And Intel shows how autonomous cars see in Germany. and a whole lot of other stuff too—swallow when you can from this firehose of news.


Cristiano Amon has been running Qualcomm’s QCT as its president since 2018. As the new CEO, he will be Qualcomm’s fourth CEO since its inception in 1985 of the largely family-run company. Part of Amon’s new responsibilities will be to integrate Nuvia into the company. Qualcomm paid $1.4 billion for the startup. Nuvia was formed by three former Apple engineers. The company has been working on a custom CPU core design that it had said would be used in server chips. Starting in 2015, Qualcomm used to design its own Kryo CPU using the ARM ISA. In 2018, the company switched to using off the shelf Arm designs. Nuvia will put Qualcomm back in the CPU business and reduce its dependence on Arm, which was becoming problematic with the acquisition of Arm by Nvidia. In addition to the automotive competition with Nvidia, Qualcomm also had ambitions in the server market and made a couple of unsuccessful attempts in that area. Nuvia solves both issues for Qualcomm. However, it will probably take two to three years before the results of the acquisition are seen.

Pat Gelsinger was an Intel person as an Intel person could be. Many suggested he was the reincarnation of Andy Grove, which doesn’t really work since Grove was actually his mentor. Inventing the CTO role at Intel, and introducing several innovations to the company, beginning with the immensely popular 386, everyone inside and out of Intel had Pat pinned for the next CEO. Gelsinger was 18 years old when he joined Intel in 1979. He left Intel in 2009 after being passed over for CEO. The Intel board instead chose Paul Otellini, the first non-engineer to run the company. Gelsinger went on to run EMC and then VMware and in the process was named CEO of the year.

Intel took a dramatic turn in 2013 when Brian Krzanich took over and the plans he put in motion would haunt the company for almost a decade. Krzanich was fired in 2018, and Bob Swan, Intel’s CFO, reluctantly took the CEO position. Intel’s manufacturing problems erupted under Swan’s term, not at all due to him, nonetheless, he paid the personal price for them. Pat inherits all that, and not even Andy Grove could fix it in less than two years. That means Pat will be under a magnifying glass, not the least of which is viewed by activist investors who pushed to fire Swan. Pat is a straight-shooter and super smart guy. If anyone can put those outside investors in their place it will be him.

Jim Keller is like a bee going from flower to flower and making them brighten up and blossom. He first became prominent at AMD where he led the design of the successful Athlon that saved AMD and made it rise in 1999. He moved on through a series of companies and in 2004 helped found P.A. Semi which got acquired by Apple in 2008. That led to the successful A4 processor. Then in 2012, he went to AMD, which was going through a series of CEOs. Lisa SU had just become Sr VP & GM. That stint resulted in AMD’s wildly successful Zen architecture, and then in a surprise move, Jim left AMD and went to Tesla in 2016. A possible personality clash drove him to accept a position at Intel in 2018 and help the Intel GPU Xe program. He left Intel in mid-2020 and a week ago took over Canadian AI chip startup Tenstorrent as CEO.

Speaking of AMD and Zen, at CES, CEO Lisa Su introduced the Ryzen 5000 series of mobile APUs. That would be a ho-hum yada-yada story if it weren’t for what the company did with the new Ryzen—like win over 50% of the available notebook sockets including the premier high-end high-performance gaming segment. No fewer than a dozen new 15-inch, 4K, 35w high-end notebooks from top brands like Acer, Asus, HP, and others will, or have, announce new notebooks based on Ryzen 5000. Look for more news on this in late January.

Nvidia also has some bragging to do in the notebooks sector. The company announced the launch of 70+ models powered by GeForce RTX 30 Series Laptop GPUs, including RTX 3080, 3070, and 3060. Gaming and Studio DCC notebooks are in the mix. For desktop gamers, the company introduced a $329 RTX3600 AIB with full ray-tracing capability—the lowest cost real-time ray tracing AIB available, well available in February that is.

Dell stunned us, literally, with its 5k 40-inch monitor (check in next week for a review), and HP announced a 34-inch 4k beauty. Both companies also introduced new 4K notebooks with 15- and 17-inch displays at prices starting at $2,000.

In some ironic PR’ing, Qualcomm and Nvidia released brags about powering the Chinese electric vehicle maker NIO. Evidently, both an Nvidia Orin Soc (introduced in 2019) and Qualcomm’s Snapdragon will be in the NIO, in China.

And, you no doubt heard about the Nvidia-Mercedes deal because you are such faithful and enthusiastic readers of TechWatch or maybe GraphicSpeak. But, did you know AMD is also a Mercedes partner? That’s right and in the lofty racing division. The new partnership will result in the AMD logo on both sides of the cockpit of the team's 2020 car, on the drivers' race suits and team clothing, and on the engineering station. The Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team pilot will use AMD commercial solutions, including AMD EPYC server processors and AMD Ryzen PRO laptop processors. AMD was no stranger to racing. The company was a longtime partner of Ferrari. They have made a switch.

Meanwhile, back on Earth, Intel was showing off how well their Mobileye can see. In fact, it seems it can see around corners. They took us for a ride around the freeways and Munich city, Germany.

Unedited 1-Hour Mobileye AV Ride in Munich


So, every company is doing everything, many of them are getting new presidents, and all of them are doing great, truly great. The stock market is up to new highs, and even though were all working at home, everyone seems to be in high spirits and enthusiastic for 2021. PC sales are up, video conferencing is now an established and viable tool, on-line collaboration is working, and everyone has become a gamer. Happy new year.