Leading into the busiest hardware launch week of our careers, we talk about Intel's internal competitive analysis document leaking, DisplayPort 2.0 specifications being detailed, and Ubuntu dropping and re-adding 32-bit support. We also follow-up on Huawei news (and how Microsoft and Intel are still supporting it) and trade tensions.
Show notes continue after the embedded video.
Intel Answers Question: “Is Intel Screwed?”
An internal Intel document has leaked onto Reddit that outlines the competitive profile of AMD, according to Intel. The letter, titled “AMD competitive profile: Where we go-toe-toe, why they are resurgent, which chips of ours beat theirs," analyzes AMD’s rise to competitiveness, with no shortage of Intel bias. However, in the letter, AMD’s competitive threat to Intel is acknowledged as “the greatest it has been in years.”
The letter goes onto look at AMD’s growth, it’s success with Ryzen, and it’s new found surge on the stock market. The letter also defines key competitive threats from AMD’s upcoming 7nm Rome, AMD’s continued push into winning over cloud providers, and the value offering of its HPC and high-end parts.
Intel also recognizes the advantage of AMD partnering with the leading TSMC and having AMD’s chips on an advanced node. That answer to all of this, according to Intel, is the six pillars of innovation: process, architecture, memory, interconnect, security, and software. These six elements coalesce to form Intel’s “secret sauce” to help stave off AMD.
Intel noted that, quote, “AMD offers high performance CPUs, posing direct competition to Intel in both our core client and datacenter CPU businesses. With our announced ambitions to bring new discrete graphics to market, we are bringing new competition to both AMD's and NVIDIA's graphics businesses.”
The company further stated, “AMD has recently been gaining some traction in winning public cloud offerings. And competition from AMD is shaping up to be especially tough in high performance computing. HPC performance is usually driven by the number of cores and the number of memory channels (or memory bandwidth). Intel is challenged on both fronts.”
Perhaps more interesting but less surprising, Intel apparently employs someone whose entire job is to do competitive analysis on just AMD. This isn’t news -- every major company hires competitive analysts -- but you normally don’t hear about them. Intel’s competitive analyst didn’t paint a good picture, and replies to the internal memo, also posted on the internal forum, really didn’t help. One Intel employee commented the following:
“The ‘secret sauce’ section of this article (personally) makes me cringe. There isn't one piece of evidence that makes me hopeful for Intel in the short term when it comes to competing vs. AMD - no numerics at all, except for how big our former SSG [editor: Software and Services Group] is. Having more SW engineers than AMD? Not convincing. Technology portfolio? Not convincing, esp. given that AMD has much more Graphics/Gaming technology expertise AI/DL expertise? It's pretty clear that we are following in this regard as well. AMD is on fire, esp. given it's size. They continually squeak out new products with less people, and have leap-frogged our HW several times in the past. They have a competitive product with FAR more cores/threads -- which is a huge marketing ploy, and has been what our customers have been asking for. There's no excuse for why we didn't do the same, and now we're in a race to catch up at a time where we are hemorrhaging talent, while also feeling the consequences of the past 5-8 years of mgmt decisions in the way we manage our CPU teams, and the priorities of that mgmt.”
While there’s no new or exciting announcements within the letter, it does provide some interesting insight from Intel on AMD’s resurgence, and how the company plans to deal with challenges it hasn’t faced in years.
Intel & MSFT Continue to Support Huawei with Security Updates
While Huawei’s future is uncertain in the western hemisphere after the US Government’s trade blacklist, at least Intel and Microsoft have confirmed they will continue to support Huawei devices with critical updates.
“We remain committed to providing exceptional customer experiences. Our initial evaluation of the U.S. Department of Commerce’s decision on Huawei has indicated we may continue to offer Microsoft software updates to customers with Huawei devices,” said Microsoft in a statement to PCWorld.
PCWorld also stated they received confirmation from Intel that the chipmaker would continue to provide support for Hauwei’s Intel-based devices. The news should assuage any concerned consumer who may be in the possession of one of Huawei's laptops or other devices.
Ubuntu Drops 32-bit Support, Angry Gamers Bring It Back
Canonical announced recently that they would be dropping 32-bit support beginning with Ubuntu 19.10, meaning anything that relies on 32-bit libraries or binaires would likely be broken. Valve, evidently seeing the writing on the wall for Ubuntu, in turn announced it would be dropping official support for future Unbuntu releases and would cease to recommend it, as well as shifting focus to a new distribution.
This set Linux gamers and developers into an uproar, and now, Canonical has walked that decision back. “Thanks to the huge amount of feedback this weekend from gamers, Ubuntu Studio, and the WINE community, we will change our plan and build selected 32-bit i386 packages for Ubuntu 19.10 and 20.04 LTS,” Canonical said in a blog post.
So, at least for the near term, 32-bit Ubuntu will survive.
AMD has purportedly recruited Alienware co-founder Frank Azor, who is rumored to assume the mantle of Chief Gaming Officer at AMD. Azor has been with Dell since it absorbed the Alienware brand in 2006, and most recently, served as Vice President and General Manager for Dell brands such as Alienware, XPS, and G-Series.
Little is known about what exactly Azor will be doing at AMD, but we can assume it will be related to helping AMD further extend its tendrils into the gaming and enthusiast segment. AMD is slowly gaining ground in the gaming notebook segment, one which it has been all but shut out of until recently.
Intel’s Lisa Pearce confirmed via Twitter that Intel will support integer scaling -- an upscaling technique -- with its Gen11 graphics and future Intel Xe graphics cards. Pearce noted that a patch would roll out this August to the Intel Graphics Command Center that will enable integer scaling support.
Intel continues to take a community centric approach to its graphics ambitions, and integer scaling support should certainly resonate well with users. AMD and Nvidia have been petitioned to add the feature, but to date, they only employ bilinear or bicubic interpolation upscaling techniques.
SiFive Chip Startup Leveraging RISC-V & US-China Trade War
While companies like Intel, AMD, and ARM are no doubt lamenting the trade war with China, which has culminated with a trade ban leveled against Huawei, there’s at least one chipmaker that sees it as an opportunity. SiFive, based in California, designs chips based on the open-source RISC-V architecture, and plans to help Chinese tech companies wean themselves off of US-based technology.
"We are going to expand big time in China. The trade war has helped us a lot because it convinced China to do more chips inside the country and we are helping them do so," SiFive President and CEO Naveed Sherwani said. "It became clear to us about three or four years ago that a trade war is going to happen," Sherwani said, "and the action we took is building a completely independent company in China."
The restrictions of the US Entity List do not apply to open-source technology, and SiFive intentionally set up an independent China-based branch, under the name of Shanghai SaiFang Technology Co., so that US operations wouldn’t affect SiFive’s business in China.
According to Nikkei Asian Review, SiFive is currently baking a 5G mobile chip based on RISC-V, and it currently has over 100 licenses for its RISC-V chip designs. Some of SiFive’s customers include Qualcomm and SK Hynix. Furthermore, the company is backed by Intel, Samsung, and Western Digital.
Sherwani has stated that SiFive’s current RISC-V chips are approaching ARM v8 performance parity, and within a year, they could eclipse ARM v8 chips.
VESA announced the DisplayPort 2.0 specification, and it may be the biggest revision the standard has ever received.
In terms of raw bandwidth, DisplayPort 2.0 is preparing for 8K and beyond by almost tripling the available bandwidth over the previous 1.3 and 1.4 specifications. DisplayPort 2.0 is targeting a data rate of 80Gbps, or 20Gbps per lane. This means that DP 2.0 will support 8K @ 60HZ while also allowing for 30-bit color depth.
VESA lists some potential display configurations that DP 2.0 could enable:
Single display resolutions
One 16K (15360×8460) display @60Hz and 30 bpp 4:4:4 HDR (with DSC)
One 10K (10240×4320) display @60Hz and 24 bpp 4:4:4 (no compression)
Dual display resolutions
Two 8K (7680×4320) displays @120Hz and 30 bpp 4:4:4 HDR (with DSC)
Two 4K (3840×2160) displays @144Hz and 24 bpp 4:4:4 (no compression)
Triple display resolutions
Three 10K (10240×4320) displays @60Hz and 30 bpp 4:4:4 HDR (with DSC)
Three 4K (3840×2160) displays @90Hz and 30 bpp 4:4:4 HDR (no compression)
When using only two lanes on the USB-C connector via DP Alt Mode to allow for simultaneous SuperSpeed USB data and video, DP 2.0 can enable such configurations as:
Three 4K (3840×2160) displays @144Hz and 30 bpp 4:4:4 HDR (with DSC)
Two 4Kx4K (4096×4096) displays (for AR/VR headsets) @120Hz and 30 bpp 4:4:4 HDR (with DSC)
Three QHD (2560×1440) @120Hz and 24 bpp 4:4:4 (no compression)
One 8K (7680×4320) display @30Hz and 30 bpp 4:4:4 HDR (no compression)
DP 2.0 will use both the native DP connector, as well as USB Type-C and incorporate Intel’s Thunderbolt 3 for the physical layer. That also means that DP 2.0 will inherit the active cabling versus passive cabling conundrum. As AnandTech notes, VESA hasn’t fully addressed that issue, but instead is focusing on what can be achieved with passive cables for the near term.
VESA expects DP 2.0 to surface in retail products by late 2020, and will also go head to head with the competing HDMI 2.1 standard.
It seems Cooler Master is set to enter the monitor market, joining the likes of MSI, and most recently, Gigabyte, who have also branched out into the ever crowded gaming monitor space. Cooler Master looks to have two models coming up: the GM219-30 and GM219-35.
As is the case with most monitor model names, the numbers tell the tale. The GM219-30 will be a 30” display with a 21:9 aspect ratio, while the GM219-35 sports a 35” screen. Both will be based on curved VA panels; the GM219-30 will offer a resolution of 2560 x 1080 @ 200HZ, while the GM219-35 will run at 3440 x 1440 @ 120Hz. Both panels are expected to offer a 1ms response time.
Prices are rumored to be $400 for the GM219-30, and $1,000 for the GM219-35. Release dates are expected toward the end of 2019.