Company: AMD
Authour: James Prior
Editor: Charles Oliver
Date: August 24th, 2010
Summary & Conclusions

AMD VISION
AMD VISION
Now we've got a glimpse of the future new products from AMD, and can see that VISION sets the stage for the new architecture based products very well. Moving to a platform experience and including the GPU as part of the fundamental strategy plays to AMD's strengths. Moving forward, we know that both Bulldozer and Bobcat are not excluded nor tied to the APU concept - products using both core architectures can be created either including or absent the SIMD arrays.

Whether this means AMD is moving to a two platform desktop/workstation strategy is unclear. Bobcat architecture based mainstream CPUs for the desktop will follow the introduction of Ontario based notebooks, a new platform known as Brazos. Whether or not the new southbridge with FUSION controller will be part of the AM3+ motherboards is another unknown, but seems likely. Bulldozer will be introduced in server (Interlagos, socket G34 & C32) and desktop (Zambezi, AM3+) markets first. This will be quickly followed by APU based products and mainstream markets. Hopefully AMD is not following Intel's confusing split socket mainstream and enthusiast strategy, and will have a single same-generation CPU (sorry, APU) socket that works for Bulldozer and Bobcat based processors, whether they have GPU capabilities or not.

Probably the most exciting concepts to come from the new technologies surround the smooth integration of the massive parallel processing power of the SIMD combined with the new high-throughput x86 architecture. With both CPU cores and GPU cores having access to shared, low latency memory, a high-performance heterogeneous compute capability exists like never before. We've seen a few applications that can leverage the GPU for problem solving, but once it's a part of the commodity hardware, present in so many platforms and machines, developers can design their applications accordingly, to take full advantage of it.

RRRRRrrrrRRRRRRrrrRRRRR!!!
RRRRRrrrrRRRRRRrrrRRRRR!!!

It will be interesting to see if AMD can reduce the lag of next generation graphics and the technology included in the FUSION APU. The lead time for new generation graphics parts is about 18-24 months from ATI (the next generation of discrete cards was being drawn on napkins in bars while Formula One racing was on, before the HD 4000 was even released), but what about Bobcat and Bulldozer? How long from 'pens down' time, up to working silicon to products in stores? We just don't know how that will shape up yet, so it might be three or four years, if ever, that we see a concurrent new technology launch from APU to high end discrete add in board through to server processor.

ATI STREAM
ATI STREAM
While it's tempting to say 'New chipsets and motherboards? Didn't I just buy those 8-series?', it's important to think of the benefits that can come from the APU era. A desktop with native Eyefinity is going to be very popular as the cost normally put into the discrete graphics card required for multi-display can now be placed into the displays themselves. Every application from the OS up can leverage the OpenCL and DirectCompute power of the APU, enhancing the experience - and you only have to look to applications like Office 2010, Firefox 4b4, Internet Explorer 9, Cyberlink MediaShow/PowerDVD/PowerDirector and ArcSoft SimHD/TruTheater to see current examples of GPU accelerated computing. 

We can also expect AMD to trend towards a yearly cadence for refreshing product lines once they have launched Bulldozer and Bobcat products initially, similar to the discrete graphics and mainstream CPU product lines currently employ. AMD is aligning itself to hit the market 'bumps' - where demand is high and new technology sells best. This is typically around major holidays like Christmas, Thanksgiving sales, and major OS releases (Windows 7, anyone? Only one guest RSVP'd but didn't make it ...), and back to school. You can maybe add tax refund season in there as well.

Catalyst Is The Key
Catalyst Is The Key
For this to really work, AMD needs to simplify their driver installer and control center. Catalyst Control Center is well overdue for a facelift and technology update - the .NET and Visual Studio dependencies are getting a little klutzy. Split support for OpenGL 4/ES2.0 and STREAM 2.2 should be made a thing of the past, with the single unified driver download being truly all you need - OpenGL 4.x + ES2.x, OpenCL 1.x, Direct3D, Direct2D all working harmoniously and smoothly in one nice package. Cross generational discrete and APU GPU peformance scaling is going to be a must, as well.

The Future Is Fusion
The Future Is Fusion
AMD has been given short shrift for innovators recently. However, now that all the referees in the game have had their blinders removed, we should be seeing the results of a fair game - and just in time, too, as this AMD team is warming up in the locker room - a cohesive team of power lifters and lithe sprinters, all of whom are good at math - to a scarily 'savant' level.

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