Intel has been uncharacteristically vocal about its most recent plans to enter the discrete GPU market. Over the last year or so, the company has disclosed some tantalizing information and made a few high-profile hires, in its bid to build-up and flesh-out a plan that was first set in motion a few years ago.
Like any major semiconductor player, Intel is continually looking for growth opportunities in areas where the company may potentially shape the future direction of a particular market segment. As GPUs have morphed from targeted gaming and graphics devices alone, into massively-parallel AI and Deep Learning compute powerhouses, it makes sense that Intel wants to get in on the GPU’s expanding market penetration. The fact that the enthusiast-computing and PC gaming segments where GPUs are a key element are still growing, likely weighed heavily on the company’s decision to engage as well.
Graphics Legacy And ExecutionIntel has publicly stated that its goal is to enter the discrete GPU space in 2020, with a brand new GPU architecture. Although AMD and NVIDIA garner the lion’s share of attention in the discrete GPU space currently, Intel’s integrated graphics solutions still push a massive number of pixels across multiple devices, even for gamers. Nearly 10% of all users on Steam are running Intel graphics, according to the most recent hardware survey. Although the company has historically been criticized for perceived performance, compatibility, and feature shortcomings with its graphics drivers and software, in recent years significant efforts have been made to address those issues and improve software support across the board. As its discrete graphics plans inch closer to fruition, Intel is already at the point where it’s announcing launch-day support and optimizations for leading-edge games and many casual gamers are satisfied with the experience Intel’s graphics solutions offer.
Building A Graphics Leadership TeamIn preparation for the development and delivery of its next-gen discrete GPU, Intel has put a well-seasoned team in place that is engaged in everything from marketing to research and development. Over the last couple of years, Intel has brought on Jim Keller, former lead architect at AMD, and made him Senior VP of the company's silicon engineering team. AMD’s former senior marketing director, Chris Hook, currently handles Discrete Graphics and Visual Technologies Marketing at Intel. Antal Tungler, the Radeon Technology Group’s former senior manager of Global Technology Marketing, is an Intel Graphics Software strategist. Darren McPhee (also formerly of AMD) is now the Director of Product Marketing, Discrete Graphics at Intel. And we can’t forget Raja Koduri, the former head of the Radeon Technologies Group and current Chief Architect, Senior Vice President and GM of the Cores & Visual Computing & Edge Computing Solutions at Intel.
Intel's Raja Koduri
At this point, Intel appears to have hardware development well underway, the software group is stepping up its game (quite literally), and a team is in place to get the company’s messaging and vision out to the masses. What we don’t have just yet are many specifics. When Intel first disclosed its plan, Dr. Murthy Renduchintala, Intel’s chief engineering officer and group president of the Client and Internet of Things Businesses and System Architecture said, “We have exciting plans to aggressively expand our computing and graphics capabilities and build on our very strong and broad differentiated IP foundation...we will add to our portfolio of unmatched capabilities, advance our strategy to lead in computing and graphics, and ultimately be the driving force of the data revolution.”